New planning system will ‘cut red tape not standards’, Housing Secretary insists


A major overhaul of the planning system will speed up the housebuilding process and “cut red tape but not standards”, the Housing Secretary has said.

Robert Jenrick said the Conservatives’ latest reforms will protect green spaces while making it easier to build on “brownfield land”.

The Government will publish its Planning for the Future White Paper on Thursday, which aims to boost the share of houses built by small and medium-sized building firms, which built 40% of new homes 30 years ago but only 12% today.

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 (MHCLG) said will balance the need for proper checks with a speedier way of working.

Coronavirus – Sun Aug 02, 2020
Coronavirus – Sun Aug 02, 2020

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.

Mr Jenrick said it takes seven years to agree local housing plans and five years just to get a spade in the ground, and the proposed changes aim to speed up the process.

He added: “These once-in-a-generation reforms will lay the foundations for a brighter future, providing more homes for young people and creating better quality neighbourhoods and homes across the country.

“We will cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before. Planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process.

“As we face the economic effects of the pandemic, now is the time for decisive action and a clear plan for jobs and growth. Our reforms will create thousands of jobs, lessen the dominance of big builders in the system, providing a major boost for small building companies across the country.”

The Tory Government last overhauled the planning system in 2012, setting up a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which was then revised in 2018.

The White Paper proposes that all new streets should be tree-lined and the MHCLG also says “all new homes to be carbon neutral by 2050, with no new homes delivered under the new system needed to be retrofitted”.

Councils will also be forced to lay out a “local plan” of where new homes can be built, as only 50% have such schemes in place.

The reforms aim to reduce the number of planning cases that get overturned at appeal by creating a “clearer, rules-based system”.

A new national levy would replace the current system of developer contributions and “beautiful buildings” will be fast-tracked through the planning system.

Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said the reforms “will allow housebuilders to get to work”.

He added: “Delivering high-quality, safe and environmentally friendly new homes is critical for meeting our climate targets while accelerating regional growth and tackling inequality.

“Affordability of future housing supply must remain at the forefront of these efforts.

“With coronavirus continuing to cast a shadow of uncertainty over the economy, a more flexible planning system must give local authorities and businesses scope to deliver the homes people need in the short term while laying the groundwork for sustainable communities for decades to come.”

Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England), said: “The key acid test for the planning reforms is community involvement, and on first reading it’s still not clear how this will work under a zoning system.

“Although we welcome the Government’s commitment to all areas having a local plan in place, we also need robust legal guarantees that the public are consulted regarding new development.”

Nikki Williams, director of campaigning and policy at The Wildlife Trusts, said tree-lined streets are not enough.

She added: “Parks, green spaces and all the areas around our homes must be part of a wild network of nature-rich areas that will benefit bees and birds as much as it will enable people to connect with on-your-doorstep nature every single day.”

John Alker, director of policy and places at the UK Green Building Council, said they were “deeply concerned” by the 2050 target for carbon neutral homes.

“All new homes must rather be net zero carbon in operation by 2030 at the latest, in order to meet our national net zero target,” he said.

Shadow housing minister Mike Amesbury said: “This is a developer’s charter that will see communities sidelined in decisions and denied vital funding for building schools, clinics and community infrastructure.”