Overhaul of ‘outdated and complex’ planning system to build homes faster

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10:55am, Sun 02 Aug 2020
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Plans for a radical shake-up of a “complex and outdated planning system” are due to be announced this week, in a bid to speed up the building of new homes.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has proposed a complete overhaul of a system that has been in place since just after the Second World War, and one he said has failed to keep up with the needs of the country.

Part of the new process will involve quicker development on land which has been designated “for renewal”, with a “permission in principle” approach that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said will balance the need for proper checks with a speedier way of working.

The other two categories will see land designated for growth where new homes, hospitals and schools will be allowed automatically to empower development, while areas of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt will come under the protection category.

I am completely overhauling the system so we can build more good quality, attractive and affordable homes faster – and more young families can finally have the key to their own home

The new process will be done through democratic local agreement, be clearer and cut out red tape, the Government said.

Mr Jenrick said: “For too long home ownership has remained out of reach for too many, as a complex and outdated planning system has failed to keep up with the needs of our country.

“I am completely overhauling the system so we can build more good quality, attractive and affordable homes faster – and more young families can finally have the key to their own home.”

The new plans will focus on quality and design, the department said, and be inspired by the idea of design codes and pattern books that built the picturesque city of Bath, village of Bournville and district of Belgravia in London.

Mr Jenrick wrote in The Sunday Telegraph: “John Ruskin said that we must build, and ‘when we do, let us think that we build forever’. That will be the guiding principle as we set out the future of the planning system.

“We will build environmentally-friendly homes that will not need to be expensively retrofitted in the future, homes with green spaces and new parks at close hand, where tree-lined streets are provided for in law, where neighbours are not strangers,” he added.

The Government said the new approach will work through an interactive and accessible map-based online system “placing planning at the fingertips”.

The changes come after the Prime Minister promised last month to “build, build, build” his way out of the coronavirus crisis.

Boris Johnson said he would slash “newt-counting” red tape in the planning system to speed up delivery of infrastructure projects and homes.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said it is ready to work with the Government to ensure any reforms bring improvement and added it is vital the right protections are in place through a locally-led planning system.

LGA chairman James Jamieson said: “Any suggestion that planning is a barrier to housebuilding is a myth. Nine in 10 planning applications are approved by councils while more than a million homes given planning permission in the last decade have not yet been built.

“The planning system needs to be able to ensure developments are of a high standard, are built in the right places, include affordable homes and are supported by infrastructure that provides enough schools, promotes greener and more active travel, and tackles climate change.”

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter cautioned that changes to the system could slow things down rather than speed them up, and said more Government investment is needed.

Polly Neate, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Instead of getting England building faster, major changes to the planning system could actually slow England down.

“Housebuilders risk facing uncertainty as they scramble to understand the new system and what it means for their plans – just as the construction industry is facing a huge economic downturn. In fact, it could even inadvertently put the frighteners on developers building new homes.

“Planning permission is not what is stopping England from getting high-quality, genuinely affordable homes – a lack of Government investment is.”

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