Planning for the future

The planning system has been a huge frustration for many councils over many years, and yet housing remains unaffordable in many parts of the country.

While there have been several attempts to improve planning in recent years, in general these have seemed to make the situation worse rather than better.

The LGA has campaigned vigorously that building the right, quality homes – in the right places, with the appropriate infrastructure – requires a local, plan-led system, and that funding needs to be provided for infrastructure.

Now, with the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech, while we need to work through the detail, government has listened to several of our asks.

The Bill’s proposals seek to simplify and standardise the local plan process, and limit speculative development applications. And a new infrastructure levy will be non-negotiable and set at a local level to capture more of land value uplift for infrastructure. 

We want to work with government to ensure the levy is a success and delivers more affordable housing and infrastructure contributions at a local authority level than the existing systems for developer contributions. 

Another encouraging proposal is to empower councils to bring vacant properties back into use.

Councils remain concerned about permitted development rights, which allow the conversion of offices, shops and restaurants into often poor-quality homes without the need to provide any affordable homes or infrastructure funding. We will continue to campaign to remove these.

Meanwhile, supporting councils to build a new generation of high-quality council homes must be a national priority if levelling up ambitions are to be met. 

This needs to include urgent reform of Right to Buy to allow councils to keep 100 per cent of receipts from sales of homes and to set discounts locally.

Throughout, it is vital that democratic input is retained as part of the local decision-making process to ensure that local people can continue to have a say and help shape the places where they live, now and for future generations.

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