Planning Bill: biggest shake up of Britain’s planning system in a generation to be announced in Queen’s Speech

·3-min read
 (Daniel Lynch)
(Daniel Lynch)

The biggest shake up of Britain’s planning system in a generation, wiping out so-called NIMBY influence over major building projects, has been unveiled in today’s Queen’s Speech.

Although currently light on detail, observers claim the Government is attempting to bolster support for the Conservative Party in traditional Labour heartlands by ramping up opportunities for home ownership — just as Margaret Thatcher did in the 1980s by offering council tenants the right to buy their homes.

A bill is expected to be brought before Parliament after the summer recess.

What will be in the planning bill?

If approved, a new traffic light system will be introduced, with London and the rest of the UK divided up by local councils into areas designated for “growth”, “protection”, or “renewal”.

Growth areas will see current planning restrictions largely swept away. Instead, automatic outline planning permission will be granted for applications for new homes, as well as shops, offices, schools, and hospitals, so long as they meet local planning rules.

Development in “protection” and “renewal” zones will be more restricted.

Other key changes include:

A new design code set up to ensure new homes are of high quality. In January the Government published a draft design code it said would banish “ugliness” from new developments with rules on everything from tree planting to the style of building facades.

The complex “Section 106” system, where developers negotiate with local councils over multi million pound payments towards improvements to local transport, schools, employment, and environment — made in return for planning permission to build — will be dismantled.

Instead, a new Infrastructure Levy will be introduced. It is not clear how this money will be spent, although in the past similar levies have paid for major transport projects including Crossrail.

Will the Planning Bill help build new homes?

Experts agree that the changes could stimulate house building – but not without a cost.

Dr Kristian Niemietz, head of political economy at right wing think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “Britain’s housing supply falls far short of what we see in comparable countries, and the problem is particularly dire in those parts of the UK where housing demand is highest.

“We needlessly deprive ourselves of affordable high-quality housing because we allow a small number of well-housed, time-rich, anti-housing activists to shut down every development project they don’t like.”

However, countryside campaign group the CPREE warned that local people would lose any right to influence the development of their neighbourhoods.Communities would be robbed of their right to shape the places in which they live,” said Crispin Truman, the charity’s chief executive.

And a letter signed by a raft of high profile groups, including Sustrans, and the Transport Planning Society, warned that the changes would mean homes would be built in locations which lack basic facilities including easy access to public transport.

London Councils also warned the proposed changes would make it harder for local authorities to meet affordable housing targets.

Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing and planning, said: “Councils play a crucial role in the planning system, upholding quality standards and ensuring new development includes affordable housing for our communities. With around 50,000 planning applications granted by London boroughs each year, we’re doing our best to facilitate the new housing the capital needs.

“Our concern is that ripping up planning regulations will only lead to more slum housing built to maximise profits rather than address Londoners’ needs. There’s so much more the government should be doing to invest in affordable housing and to support local councils’ housebuilding ambitions.”

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