Monday, 15 February 2021
Precision Planning – Reviewing the ‘Planning for the Future’ white paper
The Planning for the Future white paper, published in August 2020, setting out the ‘once in a generation’ proposals to overhaul England’s planning system has caused controversy. Following several waves of changes to rules during this most unconventional year on change of use and permitted development rights (PDRs), the Government has signalled its intention to bring about wholesale change to planning policy.
‘Newt-counting delays’ as PM Boris Johnson summarises the restrictions of existing policy, slow down the house building process and are delays which the PM hopes to eliminate in order for developers and builders to ‘build better and build greener but also build faster’.
Government aims for the future of Planning in their white paper
The Government’s stated aims for change with the new policy include:
- Local communities will be consulted from the very beginning of the planning process. By harnessing the latest technology through online maps and data, the whole system will be made more accessible
- Valued green spaces will be protected for future generations by allowing for more building on brownfield land and all new streets are to be tree lined
- Much-needed homes will be built quicker by ensuring local housing plans are developed and agreed in 30 months – down from the current 7 years
- Every area to have a local plan in place – currently only 50% of local areas has a plan to build more homes
- The planning process to be overhauled and replaced with a clearer, rules-based system. Currently around a third of planning cases that go to appeal are overturned at appeal
- A new simpler national levy to replace the current system of developer contributions which often causes delay
- The creation of a fast-track system for beautiful buildings and establishing local design guidance for developers to build and preserve beautiful communities
- All new homes to be ‘zero carbon ready’, with no new homes delivered under the new system needed to be retrofitted as we achieve our commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050
Many have welcomed the proposal – especially developers who have celebrated the commitment to building 300,000 new homes a year. The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the Royal Institute of British Architects have raised some concerns about sweeping away the current system, and the Local Government Association’s response, predictably, is to ensure that new homes are delivered through a locally-led planning system, where communities retain the right to shape the areas in which they live.
The requirement for First Homes, a proposed newform of affordable housing with prices 30% below the general market, will fall under the jurisdiction of the local planning authorities (LPAs) under the new policy. This is a change that has attracted a great deal of controversy in the construction sector. The LPA will be required to assess the size, type and tenure of the housing need and ensure that at least 10% of housing on major developments (defined as builds of ten or more houses), is built for affordable ownership. The consultation document for the white paper states that a quarter of the affordable housing on site should be First Homes, with two options put forward by government for the remaining three quarters. However, the paper recognises that SME builders build the majority of smaller sites, which tend to build out more quickly, which is vital to the success of the proposal and target to hit 300,000 new homes per year. As such, it is proposed that the Community Infrastructure Levy payments threshold is increased to 40 or 50 homes for the period that the economy is in recovery from the impact of the Covid-19.
Environmental Assessment & Mitigation in the Planning White Paper
George Eustice, Environment Secretary, also announced a change to our approach to environmental assessment and mitigation, in order to ‘protect more of what is precious.’ During his speech on environmental recovery during the summer of 2020, Eustice said ‘If we can front-load ecological considerations in the planning development process, we can protect more of what is precious.
Delivering this change is what lies at the heart of our approach to future farming policy, our approach to biodiversity net gain in the planning system, and also behind other initiatives like highly protected marine areas that we intend to pilot. Building back greener means what it says, and I want to work with all of you to make that happen.’
For Government to pass the white paper through the corridors of Whitehall and into law will require patience and time. Until then, LPAs are urged to get plans in place, developers are urged to keep building and in turn, we will keep planning.
For further information or to discuss how we can support you through the process of securing planning permission, contact your local office via email@example.com, and we will arrange a no-obligations initial consultation.