Martin Ford 06 August 2020

Reforms to fast-track local plans

Councils will face sanctions unless they draw-up local plans within 30 months under government proposals to overhaul the planning system.

A fixed, national levy would also replace Section 106 agreements as part of the White Paper published today.

Councils would be required to designate land as for growth - where planning permission is automatically granted - for renewal - where permission in principle applies - and protected areas, such as green spaces.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick pledged the reforms would ‘cut red tape, but not standards,’ but his opposition counterpart Mike Amesbury denounced them as a ‘developer’s charter’.

The White Paper said that categories for all land in England will be ‘decided through local consensus’ and the Government would consult on new ‘nationally determined,’ binding housing requirements while proposing that local housing plans should be developed and agreed in 30 months.

In a bid to bring down the time to complete plans, they will follow a standard template, with tests for soundness and the duty to cooperate abolished, and sanctions for those who do not meet the deadline.

Community levies and Section 106 agreements would be replaced by a fixed national levy based on a proportion of the value of the development, above a fixed threshold, with proposals to extend the current exemption of small sites from having to make Section 106 payments.

Overall, the proposals aim to raise more funds than at present and deliver at least as much affordable housing.

The Government argues that the ‘length of time and unpredictability of the system’ acts as a barrier to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in the construction sector.

It has made a call for evidence for views on proposals to help councils and local communities ‘better understand who controls land in their area’ and ‘assist SME and new entrants to the housing market identity land suitable for development’.

The White Paper also aims to ‘explore how publicly-owned land disposal can support the SME and self-build sectors’.

It puts forward a fast-track system for ‘beautiful buildings,’ with councils required to appoint a chief officer for design and place-making.

All new homes are to be carbon neutral by 2050 and all new streets will be tree-lined.

Mr Jenrick said: ‘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.’

But Mr Amesbury said: ‘This is a developer’s charter that will see communities side-lined in decisions and denied vital funding for building schools, clinics and community infrastructure.’

Chief executive of the British Property Federation, Melanie Leech, warned councils would need ‘significant support and resource’ to implement the reforms following 55% planning budget cuts over the past decade.

Local government representatives were wary of the proposals, but have pledged to work with the Government on the reforms.

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