The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is consulting on substantial planning reforms until 11.45 on 29th October 2020. Its own summary of the reforms is:
?The Planning for the future consultation proposes reforms of the planning system to streamline and modernise the planning process, bring a new focus to design and sustainability, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure, and ensure more land is available for development.?
The consultation covers a package of proposals for reform of the planning system in England, covering plan-making, development management, development contributions, and other related policy proposals.
The introduction of new primary and secondary legislation to give effect to the changes is likely to be in 2021. DWD expects that there will be several areas that are being consulted upon will be of interest to our clients across all planning sectors. Below is a summary of the main consultation matters and headline details which members of our planning team would be happy to explore further with client specific requirements in mind.
The Broad Proposals
1.Streamline the planning process in England by:
? Simplifying the role of Local Plans, focusing on three land categories ? Growth areas suitable for substantial development, and where outline approval for development would be automatic; Renewal areas suitable for some development, such as gentle densification; and Protected areas where development is restricted.
? Setting out general development management policies nationally with Local Plans setting clear local rules.
? Greater engagement at the plan-making stage.
? Introducing a single statutory ?sustainable development? test replacing the existing tests of soundness and updating requirements for assessments (including on the environment and viability) and abolishing the Duty to Cooperate
? Requiring Local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate to meet a statutory timetable (of no more than 30 months
? Compelling faster and more certain decision-making within firm deadlines.
? Strengthening enforcement powers and sanctions.
? Developing a comprehensive resources and skills strategy for the planning sector to support the implementation of the reforms.
2. A digital-first planning process. Local Authorities are to be provided with support and collaboration with tech companies and the UK PropTech sector to develop effective civic engagement and decision-making processes.
3. A new focus on design and sustainability, including:
? Making it easier for those who want to build beautifully through the introduction of fast-track consenting for high quality design.
? The introduction of a quicker, simpler framework for assessing environmental impacts and enhancement opportunities
? Establishing a new body to support the delivery of design codes in every part of the country.
? Protecting our historic buildings and areas while ensuring the consent regime is modernised.
4. Improve infrastructure delivery. The Community Infrastructure Levy and the current system of planning obligations are proposed to be reformed as a single nationally set, value-based flat rate charge (the ?Infrastructure Levy?).The new levy would be extended to capture changes of use through permitted development rights.
5. Make more land available for the homes and development people and communities need, and support renewal of our town and city centres primarily through a new nationally determined, binding housing requirement that local planning authorities would have to deliver through their Local Plans. The aspiration being to create a housing market that can deliver 300,000 homes annually.
Other proposed measures include speeding up construction where development has been permitted by making it clear in the revised National Planning Policy Framework that the masterplans and design codes for sites prepared for substantial development should seek to include a variety of development types from different builders which allow more phases to come forward.
Areas of Interest to Developers in the Detail
Continuing its fondness for policy pillars, the Government`s detailed consultation proposals are contained within:
Pillar One ? Planning for development
These proposals focus on certainty and delivery by proposing the classification of land and associated simplified routes to planning permission including:
? Automatic outline permissions for development conferred by the adoption of the Local Plan in Growth Areas.
? Fast tracking specified forms of development in Renewal Areas.
It is understood that development in Protected Areas including in established designations such as green belt, AONB, conservation areas etc will remain subject to existing policy considerations. New Settlements could be dealt with by way of a Development Consent Order.
A new methodology for determining binding housing provision in Local Plans based on the least affordable places receiving most of the target, taking account environmental constraints. A separate consultation on the methodology is being undertaken.
The statutory determination time limits of 8 and 13 weeks should be strict deadlines.
Pillar Two ? Planning for beautiful and sustainable places
There is clear intention to embed good design in the planning system, perhaps more so than before and to introduce a fast-track for beauty through changes to national policy and legislation to incentivise and accelerate high quality development which reflects local character and preferences.
To supplement the National Design Guide, published in October last year the Government will also publish a National Model Design Code to supplement the guide, setting out more detailed parameters for development in different types of location. Proposals also include locally produced design codes with the intention that schemes that comply with local design codes and guides should have greater certainty about their prospects of swift approval and to allow for pre-approval of popular and replicable designs through permitted development.
Pillar Three ? Planning for infrastructure and connected places
The Government could seek to use developer contributions to capture a greater proportion of the land value uplift that occurs through the grant of planning permission.
The current system of planning obligations under Section 106 is proposed to be consolidated under a reformed, extended ?Infrastructure Levy?. The new levy proposes that a fixed proportion of the development value above a threshold is given over via a mandatory nationally-set rate or rates and the current system of planning obligations abolished. The reformed Infrastructure Levy is intended to deliver affordable housing secured through in-kind delivery on-site, off-set from the Levy liability. If the new approach to development contributions is implemented, a small proportion of the income would be earmarked to local planning authorities to cover their overall planning costs, including the preparation and review of Local Plans and design codes and enforcement activities.
Other Current Consultations
The Government is also publishing a consultation on four shorter-term measures designed to improve the immediate effectiveness of the current system:
? changes to the standard method for assessing local housing need.
? securing of First Homes, sold at a discount to market price for first time buyers, including key workers, through developer contributions in the short term until the transition to a new system.
? temporarily lifting the small sites threshold, below which developers do not need to contribute to affordable housing, to up to 40 or 50 units.
? extending the current Permission in Principle to major schemes.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this note, please contact on of our Planning Partners:
Nick Fennell (Consultant)