New government planning reforms announced in the Queen's Speech on Tuesday will aim to deliver homes faster and more efficiently.
The government's long-awaited Planning Bill proposes several measures designed to create a simpler, more modern planning system, and builds on the 'Planning For The Future' published last summer.
The last significant update to the planning system occurred in 1947 and the Planning Bill is designed to replace this legislation. The new planning reforms will relax rules on planning permission and speed up the rate of housing developments.
The bill will go before parliament in autumn and could have a transformational impact on the planning system in England.
Why Have New Planning Reforms Been Announced?
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The government said last summer it wanted to cut the planning system red tape, due to the current speed of housing development in England.
It has pledged to build 300,000 new homes per year, but official figures show that only 192,725 homes were built last year.
Under the current rules, it takes an average of five years for a standard housing development to go through the planning system. The Planning Bill aims to significantly reduce this time.
What Are The New Planning Reforms?
The Planning Bill comprises several key strands to create what the government says will be a more streamlined process. These include:
A traffic light system
In August, the government recommended that a traffic light system of zone planning should be introduced which will classify land for either:
Land in growth areas will benefit from automatic permission, while land in urban renewal areas will be granted permission in principle.
This simplification of the rules will be included within the Planning Bill, and would make it more difficult for councils and homeowners to block new housing schemes.
A digital planning system
The document-based planning system currently in effect would move to a digital one. This is designed to improve the speed and efficiency of application decisions, and allow residents to be more engaged in the development of their local area.
At the moment, only 3% of local people engage with consultations on planning applications, according to the government.
Scrapping Section 106
A new infrastructure levy has been proposed to replace Section 106, a legal agreement between an applicant seeking planning permission and the local planning authority. However, details on how the levy would work are yet to be outlined.
A Design Code
The reforms would also incorporate a National Model Design Code to improve the beauty, quality and design of homes in England.
The code will include a 10-point checklist of design principles for councils to consider when approving new developments.
The code also includes references to custom and self build, with accompanying guidance underlying how design codes can encourage self build and custom build developments.
What Else Has Been Announced?
The Queen also made the following announcements at the government's behest:
- A Building Safety Bill has been proposed to help remove dangerous cladding from buildings, and to provide stronger duties for those responsible for the safety of high-rise buildings
- The Environment Bill will go before parliament to help tackle climate change, proposing measures such as charges on single-use plastic. It will also stipulate what steps developers must take to minimise the impact of new development on natural habitats, by requiring them to put together a biodiversity ‘gain plan’.
What Has the Reaction Been?
There has been a mixed reaction to the Planning Bill, as well as the potential impact of the Environment Bill.
Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director of CPRE, the countryside charity, warned that the Planning Bill could bulldoze the Environment Bill, and could lead to a weakening of local communities' right to be heard on the future of their area.
Fyans said: "The Planning Bill looks set to prioritise developers’ needs over local communities, provide no new environmental safeguards and could slow the delivery of genuinely affordable homes in many areas."
CPRE published a report earlier this year, titled 'Vision for Planning', which called on the government to adapt its planning reforms proposals to better protect the countryside and rural areas.
However, Mark Hayward, chief policy adviser at Propertymark, which represents estate and letting agents, welcomed the reforms: “We hope the Planning Bill outlined on Tuesday encourages the development of housing in more affordable areas as, at the moment, most of the development taking place is in areas that are unaffordable to first-time and lower-income buyers.
“The government has made a number of announcements in the past on simplifying the planning process; however, this will only work if it really reflects local needs and demands."
The Planning Bill is expected to be brought before parliament in the autumn, following the summer recess, where the government will hope to have enough support to enter the bill into law.
But before the reforms can be brought before parliament, the government still needs to review a considerable 44,000 responses issued in a consultation over the reforms, which closed in January.
Earlier this year, housing minister Christopher Pincher also confirmed that a new Environment Bill will be brought before parliament this year and, if passed, will be embedded into the planning reforms.
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