Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has today (6th August) set out plans to overhaul the country’s outdated planning system and transform the way the country builds.
Proposals have been put forward in the white paper, Planning for the future, which was published today.
The “most significant reforms to housing policy in decades” aims to deliver the high-quality, sustainable homes communities need.
The landmark changes are set to improve a system that has long been criticised for being too sluggish in providing housing for families, key workers and young people, and too ineffectual in obligating developers to properly fund the infrastructure — such as schools, roads and GP surgeries — to support them.
The current system has shown itself to be unfavourable to small businesses, with the proportion of new homebuilding they lead on dropping drastically from 40% 30 years ago to just 12% today.
The changes are expected to be a major boost to SME builders currently cut off by the planning process.
“Our complex planning system has been a barrier to building the homes people need; it takes seven years to agree local housing plans and five years just to get a spade in the ground,” said Jenrick.
“These once-in-a generation reforms will lay the foundations for a brighter future, providing more homes for young people and creating better quality neighbourhoods and homes across the country.
“We will cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before.
“Planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process.
“As we face the economic effects of the pandemic, now is the time for decisive action and a clear plan for jobs and growth.
“Our reforms will create thousands of jobs, lessen the dominance of big builders in the system, providing a major boost for small building companies across the country.”
The reforms will mean:
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 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 seven 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
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.
The housing secretary has also confirmed that the First Homes scheme will provide newly-built homes at a 30% discount for local people, key workers and first-time buyers.
The discount will be locked into the home in perpetuity, ensuring future buyers can continue to benefit from it.
In addition, Section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy will be replaced with a new Infrastructure Levy that will be a fixed proportion of the value of the development, above a set threshold, helping to deliver more affordable housing.
Following the publication of Planning for the future, the government will now consult with planners, lawyers and local government experts on the proposals, as well as interest groups and residents.
Property industry reacts to major planning reform proposals
“These reforms will allow housebuilders to get to work, supporting supply chains, and more flexible, local labour markets around the country,” stated Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director.
“Delivering high quality, safe and environmentally-friendly new homes is critical for meeting our climate targets while accelerating regional growth and tackling inequality.
“Affordability of future housing supply must remain at the forefront of these efforts.”
“The renewed commitment to building 300,000 new homes a year is an important goal and will be aided by these new initiatives,” added James Thomson, CEO at Gleeson Homes.
Mary-Anne Bowring, group managing director at Ringley, stated: “While a lot will depend on the local plans and design codes that are adopted, the zonal based system — earmarking land for growth, renewal or protection — will help with the reshaping of town and city centres across the country, which will need repurposing post-pandemic as we adapt to new ways of working, living and shopping.
“One disappointing element to the government’s planning white paper is the continued focus on first-time buyers, with nothing on how to boost the supply of rental housing, despite private renters being the fastest growing part of the housing market.
“Having already abolished stamp duty for most first-time buyers and introduced a stamp duty holiday generally, the government should look to scrap the additional levy on BTL investors, who still provide the mainstay of private rented accommodation.
“The government should also be encouraging institutional investors such as pension funds and insurers, who previously would have invested in offices and shopping centres, to fund the creation of purpose-built rental housing.”
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