Within a Written Ministerial Statement published on 6th December, the Government announced additional measures to be implemented alongside the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill with a focus on placing local communities at the heart of the planning system. This follows on from the measures set out within the Bill when previously announced by the Government on 11th May 2022.
The latest announcement concentrates on delivering a number of commitments previously announced in the summer, including suggested reforms to housing target requirements.
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove’s, recent press release stated that: “We have an urgent need in this country to build more homes so that everyone – whether they aspire to home ownership or not – can have a high-quality, affordable place to live. But our planning system is not working as it should.”
Currently, England has a target of delivering 300,000 homes a year, however the Secretary of State, has suggested that this figure should be used as an ‘advisory’ guide, instead of a mandatory target. If this reform is indeed forthcoming, it would allow Councils greater flexibility in meeting their individual housing targets should they face genuine constraints.
Additional measures within the Bill also being considered and consulted on include:
– Abolishing the obligation for local authorities to maintain a rolling five-year housing land supply where their local plans are considered up-to-date and to also remove the requirement for a 20% buffer for both plan and decision-making. Those authorities with existing, up-to-date plans will benefit from this, however authorities with local plans at an advanced stage will be able to benefit from transitional changes.
– Increasing community protections and powers afforded by neighbourhood plans against appeals by increasing these protections where the plan has evidently been part of the wider development plan for five years or less, instead of two. Furthermore, the Government will be consulting on certain areas which will be in scope of the new National Development Management Policies, and each new policy will be consulted on before it is brought forward.
– Consultation on the possibility of increasing planning fees, including the doubling of fees for retrospective applications in instances where breaches of planning have occurred. This also includes a new planning performance framework which will seek to monitor local performance across a wider set of measures of planning service delivery, which will include enforcement.
– Various measures to help ensure developers proceed in building out and implementing planning permissions that have already been granted by allowing local authorities to refuse applications submitted by developers who have a history of slow build-out and by also making sure local authorities grant that have granted permissions are not penalised by the housing delivery test as a result of slow build-out by developers.
– Consultation on a new financial penalty approach in order to accelerate the speed at which permissions are built out.
– A new Infrastructure Levy to be set by local planning authorities, which will enable them to set differing Levy rates across differing area of the authoritative boundaries. This could, for example, introduce lower rates on brownfield land, in a bid to try and increase brownfield development.
– Proposal of a registration scheme for short-term lets and tourist accommodation, and consideration as to whether homeowners should be required to apply for planning permission to rent out their properties as short-term holiday lets, such as Airbnb’s.
The Secretary of State has also commissioned the Competition and Markets Authority to undertake a market study on the housebuilding industry, an update for which is understood to be provided early next year.
Concluding remarks made by Gove has sought to summarise the proposed changes above, in that: “No planning reforms will ever be perfect, but I judge that the Bill, alongside the broader policy changes that I am proposing above, will leave us with a significantly improved planning system than the status quo.”
It will be interesting to understand the implications this will have for the housebuilding and construction industries, as well as for local planning authorities. Firstplan are closely monitoring the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill as it continues its journey through Parliament and will continue to provide further updates.
A link to the latest Written Ministerial Statement can be found here: Written statements – Written questions, answers and statements – UK Parliament
Article by James Emblin