Planning for the future

The Government has published a series of proposals for overhauling the planning system.

In early August, the Government unveiled its ideas for delivering new housing through changes to England’s planning system.

‘Planning for the future’ proposes an overhaul and streamlining of current planning processes that will require primary legislation. 

The White Paper contains 24 individual proposals across three ‘pillars’ – planning for development, planning for beautiful and sustainable places, and planning for infrastructure and connected places – and a final section on delivering change. 

Among the proposals are a requirement for every area to have a local plan in place within 30 months, with sanctions for councils not meeting this deadline. The local plan will set rules, rather than policies for general development.

Land will be designated in the local plan as either for growth, renewal or protection. Development in growth areas will be approved at the same time as plans are prepared, and be subject to local design standards. Renewal areas will be suitable for some development, while protected areas will restrict development to protect, for example, areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks.

The intention is that communities will set the agenda for their own areas, with the categories for all land across England decided through local consensus. A key aim of the White Paper is to “move the democracy forward”, so that the focus is on developing the local plan rather than determining individual planning decisions. The consultation explores the accessibility of the planning system, with the aim of ensuring the process engages local communities at an earlier stage. 

Other measures include moving towards a digital planning system, and a new infrastructure levy that would replace the current system of developer contributions via Section 106 agreements and community infrastructure levy. 

A fast-track system for ‘beautiful buildings’ would be created, and all new homes would be ‘zero carbon ready’. There are also proposals that aim to protect green spaces, allow for more building on brownfield land, and more trees in streets. 

In addition to the White Paper, there is a parallel consultation called ‘Changes to the planning system’. It proposes delivery of a First Homes scheme providing newly built homes at a 30 per cent discount for first-time buyers. A minimum of 25 per cent of all affordable housing units secured through developer contributions would have to be First Homes.

There are also proposals to change the standard method for assessing local housing need; secure First Homes through developer contributions; temporarily lift the small sites threshold for affordable homes; and extend the current ‘permission in principle’ to major developments.

In the LGA’s response to the Government’s consultation on First Homes in May (see first 648), we raised concerns about the potential impact on the delivery of social and affordable rented homes – of which there is already an undersupply in many local authority areas. Ministers have now responded to those submissions (see panel, right).

The Government has also issued a call for evidence on its proposals to improve the transparency of contractual mechanisms used to exercise control over land, such as land options, rights of pre-emption, and estate contracts. It is seeking views on the design of the policy and evidence on its likely impacts.

As we said in our widely reported media response to the White Paper, councils are committed to ensuring new homes are built and communities have quality places to live.

Councils share the aspiration of improving the current planning system to provide greater certainty for communities, encourage brownfield development, to deliver better infrastructure and increase local involvement. 

Any new system needs to focus on ensuring planning permissions are built and providing local control over developments, and to have public participation at its heart. 

We look forward to engaging with the Government to ensure its aspirations of an improved system work in practice. We will also engage with councils as we develop our response, so please share your own views with jo.allchurch@local.gov.uk or christina.kaiser@local.gov.uk. We would be particularly interested to have your thoughts on the following:

  • Which proposals are you most concerned about or supportive of, and why?
  • What is your view on the role that councillors will have in the proposed new system?
  • What resourcing do you think your council would need to lead the change process and to implement these new proposals? 
  • What model would you suggest for a new infrastructure levy?

Consultation details

The Government’s planning consultations include: 

 Please share your views of the proposals with the LGA by emailing jo.allchurch@local.gov.uk or christina.kaiser@local.gov.uk

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