Faster, fairer planning promised in forthcoming green paper

Next month, a green paper is expected from the Government that is expected to outline a series of changes to the planning system that will have big impacts for developers, construction firms and housing providers.

Why will changes be proposed, and what can we expect to see?

Planning system: what are the problems?

While the Local Government Association maintains that planning is not a barrier to housebuilding, its stance, and that of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) which is that planning resources are lacking and underfunded, appears to have struck a chord with government.

Responding to the Chancellor’s 2019 Spring Statement, when changes to planning rules were first outlined, Ian Tant, President of the RTPI, said: “The state of finance in local authorities, especially local planning capacity, is a real worry and sadly, there is nothing in the statement today to alleviate that.”

Then in June, the Public Accounts Committee reported that the Government’s target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s was unlikely to be achieved due to “inherent” problems in the planning system.

The then-Housing Minister Kit Malthouse, making reference to the Accelerated Planning Green Paper in June, pledged to speed-up the planning process and dropped the first hints that this could including “positive financial incentives” for both planners and developers.

What can we expect to see in the Accelerated Planning Green Paper?

Several proposals have already been put forward, though we will have to wait for the Green Paper’s publication later this month to see the detail. The initial proposals include:

  1. A potential for planning fees to be refunded if councils take too long to decide on specific planning applications
  2. A more “user-friendly” approach designed to simplify the process for local residents
  3. The introduction of a new “tiered planning system” that will help small developers with simplified planning guidance
  4. A review of planning application fees to help ensure council planning departments and “properly resourced, providing more qualified planners to process applications”

Government also wants to reduce planning conditions by a third, take forward proposals to allow homes to be built on top of existing structures, and seek views on demolishing old commercial buildings for new homes, with the additional aim of revitalising the High Street.

It is not clear at this stage whether the Green Paper will include more details on these proposals or whether they will run separately. We will report on the Green Paper again once it is published.

Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication.

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