Housing and planning matters

18th August 2020

Don’t we live in ‘interesting times’!

Housing minister (the Right Honorable) Robert Jenrick MP unveiled a new planning White Paper on August 6th, imaginatively titled Planning for the Future (is there any other kind?) with a foreword by the Prime Minister, I quote;

That is what this paper proposes. Radical reform unlike anything we have seen since the Second World War. Not more fiddling around the edges, not simply painting over the damp patches, but levelling the foundations and building, from the ground up, a whole new planning system for England.

Some of us will remember similar talk around the 2012 Localism Act and the creation of the revered NPPF, designed to simplify and streamline the planning system

So, what is proposed? Remember, this is a consultation paper, we have 12 weeks to respond.

The headline stuff is all about Local Plans:

Extract:

Simplifying the role of Local Plans, to focus on identifying land under three categories -

Growth areas suitable for substantial development, and where outline approval for development would be automatically secured for forms and types of development specified in the Plan;

Renewal areas suitable for some development, such as gentle densification; and

Protected areas where – as the name suggests – development is restricted

There is then much more on how Local Plans will be made, how local people will be engaged to help produce them and a lot of rhetoric about moving everything online (another ‘digital by default’ maneuver).

The key change is that Local plans will be much shorter and contain no general policies instead they will set out rules for particular places and standards more generally.  Planning authorities are to be given 30 months to produce the new local plans. I wonder how they feel about that?

And then some good stuff- a new focus on Design and Sustainability

Quote:

Ask for beauty and be far more ambitious for the places we create, expecting new development to be beautiful, and to create a ‘net gain’ not just ‘no net harm’, with a greater focus on ‘placemaking’ and ‘the creation of beautiful places’ within the National Planning Policy Framework.

BUT... “A quicker, simpler process for decisions on environmental impact” worries me - simpler how?  and how long it takes to get a thorough environmental impact should not be up to the developer.

And then another radical change – replace Section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) with a new national levy – this is again to speed up the negotiation between local authority and developer.  I imagine It could create quite a lot of unrest.

And fifth - if you’ve been counting, new binding housing targets set for local authorities, I thought we had those now – but the intention is to ramp up the pace that new land is developed

Lastly, the aspirations are laid out – fairer faster, more trustworthy etc etc

I get a bit weary reading this stuff - of course they say it will improve every aspect of life, just like cornflakes or a new shampoo does.

The government is in a hurry, to keep their promise to build a million new homes this parliament.

I think there is much that is welcome in these proposals, but some concerns too.

It is not proven that it is planning that holds up house building, except that planning is supposed to ensure that things like houses are built in the right place and developers sometimes have a different view on where that is.  

A focus on good design, local accountability is great, but how will this be achieved with even more top down targets? How will planning departments, already stretched and understaffed, be able to whip up a new plan in a two and half years? How will local communities be positively engaged in preparing these new plans, will going digital be enough?

And finally from me, for now, how does Neighbourhood Planning fit into all this? That's another subject, and I’ll be writing about that soon.

Get in touch if you have any queries or comments: [email protected]

PS  Take a look at the White Paper and form your own opinion, and feel free to respond to the consultation directly.