Planning for the Future White Paper – Our Thoughts
Hot off the press! The Government has today published it’s Planning For The Future White Paper, commencing a 12-week consultation on a number of proposals for significant reform of the planning system in England. These changes are intended to assist with the “Build, Build, Build” agenda and the intention for the delivery of 300,000 homes annually.
“Our initial impressions are that this is the evolution of the existing system, rather than a complete revolution!
“Key proposals include the introduction of what will essentially be a “zoning” system to produce three types of land including “Growth” areas suitable for substantial development, “Renewal” areas suitable for development and areas that are “Protected”. Growth areas would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development.
“In addition, development management policies would be established nationally and policies in Local Plans would be restricted to clear and necessary site, or area-specific, requirements. There will also be revisions to the current system of local housing need through the introduction of a new standard method for establishing housing requirement figures.
“Whilst in theory, any measures that are put in place to help chart a smoother path through the often over-complicated sometimes unduly onerous planning system are to be welcomed, there is the potential that the new measures will add an extra layer of red-tape for developers in the short term, as there will clearly still need to be a reliance upon local authorities allocating land in new and updated local plans, which will still need to be produced and scrutinized locally through extended Local Plan Examinations in order to ensure that there is sufficient level of detail in both policy and design terms.
“Only once this work has been carried out will sites potentially be able to benefit from the new “zoning system”. This also begs the question as to whether Local Authorities will be given sufficient funding to resource the additional work implications these changes will bring about, particularly as they will now be expected to deliver new Local Plans within either 30 or 42 months.
“What is clear is that the direction of travel from the Government is to speed up new house building through a series of deregulation measures. Ultimately, given the examples of the poor standards of living accommodation that have arisen as a result of extensive permitted development rights to create new homes from vacant commercial buildings, there is a fear that the focus may be upon quantity, rather than quality, regardless of the various soundbites about a focus on quality and design.
“Whilst the White Paper references an increased emphasis on design expectations through locally prepared design guidance and codes, with schemes complying with these fast-tracked, as we try and navigate our way successfully out of lockdown, it is crucial that we take time to reflect about the types of housing, and significantly, the types of places and communities we create so as to ensure that they become where people will want to live in the future.
“Whether “Build. Build, Build” is the right policy approach for this moment in time is questionable as it threatens, without the appropriate checks and balances in place, to move the focus solely onto the numbers, and not take heed of the lessons that we potentially need to learn as a society about how to create places with people’s mental and physical well-being at their heart.”
As with all new changes to the planning system, this will potentially open up new and exciting opportunities and challenges to our industry, which Lee Evans Partnership will be able to help and guide you through. If you wish to discuss these changes and the implications on any future development opportunities, please do not hesitate to get in touch.