A Major Reform or More Tinkering?
Updated: Mar 16, 2020
In the wake of the budget, the Government has produced 'Planning for the Future' - one part of its ambitions to deliver more and better homes. Much of this is about how the system will operate, including a new Planning Act, rather than specific policies. That said, there are some hints about encouraging development in England through new permitted development rights:
🟢 for building upwards on existing buildings, including to extend residential blocks by up to two storeys;
🟢 to "deliver new and bigger homes", though currently no further details on this;
🟢 to allow vacant commercial buildings, industrial buildings and residential blocks to be demolished and replaced with new residential units, subject to meeting natural light standards.
These will be consulted on in the Spring, with the aim of being in place by the Summer.
There is a renewed focus on brownfield land - nothing new in that, but there are promises for new mapping of brownfield sites and a focus on regeneration, as well as significant infrastructure investment.
Some of the other proposals for changing the systems extend beyond just planning, but are potentially interesting for us nonetheless. They include:
🟢 Rebates of fees when schemes are successful at appeal, which should focus Councils' minds when they feel like rejecting what would otherwise be decent schemes.
🟢 Transparency on land options, plus other measures to ensure housing permissions are built out
🟢 Zoning tools to simplify future applications
🟢 New fees for planning applications and performance targets for Councils
🟢 A new (revised) National Planning Policy Framework
🟢 Legislative reform of the compulsory purchase system
🟢 New advice on building in areas with flood risk
🟢 Introducing a Future Homes Standard from 2025, which will require up to
80% lower carbon emissions for all new homes
🟢 Various measures to encourage home ownership, particularly for first-time buyers, and
🟢 introducing a New Homes Ombudsman
There is also talk of re-calibrating the way Councils assess how many homes they need. This should see housing numbers go one way, upwards. (In a separate matter, the Government has already intervened to stop the Mayor of London proceeding with his London Plan, as it was considered to be insufficiently ambitious with its housing targets.)
These measures will form part of a wider array of legislation led by a "bold and ambitious" Planning White Paper in the Spring (effectively a draft new Planning Act), with a Building Safety Bill, Renters' Reform Bill and Social Housing White Paper. Together these will support a housing strategy to be published later in the year, which will have longer-term plans to deliver more homes and "create a fairer housing market".
The devil will of course be in the detail, so it's too early to say how helpful these changes will be, but the tenor is certainly positive. We will keep an eager eye out to see how these high level aspirations work their way into the nuts and bolts of the system before assessing whether these amount to a real transformation or little more than another Government's tinkering.