Osborne's planning reforms - Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation

Published on 16th Jul 2015

Following last Wednesday’s budget, on Friday 10 July, the Government announced a range of planning reforms directed at improving the supply of housing in the UK.

The key document setting out the changes is the ninety page Government publication entitled, ‘Fixing the Foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation’.
A summary of the key reforms includes:

  • The imposition of local plans on authorities (setting out how housing needs will be adressed) where they have failed to produce their own plans. There are also supplementary proposals to streamline the length and process of local plans.
  • Penalties to be imposed on local authorities that fail to act promptly in processing planning applications on time (i.e. in instances where the authorities are making 50% or fewer decisions on time).
  • Extending the performance regime to minor applications so that local authorities processing those applications too slowly will similarly risk designation.
  • An automatic planning permission ‘zonal’ regime will be set up for development on statutory designated brownfield sites.
  • Increased compulsory purchase powers will be introduced in an effort to free up more brownfield land for development.
  • Greater support is to be provided for high density housing in areas near commuter transport hubs.
  • Proposals to remove the need for planning permission in London developments comprising vertical extensions to buildings (to a limited number of storeys) up to the height of adjoining properties.
  • Increased powers for the Major of London and future Mayor of Greater Manchester (including rights relating to the production of Development Corporations and promotion of CPOs).
  • The introduction of a fast track certificate process for establishing the principle of development for minor development proposals and significant tightening of the ‘planning guarantee’ for minor applications.
  • The extension of permitted development rights to taller mobile masts to support improved mobile connectivity in rural areas.
  • The introduction of a new dispute resolution service for section 106 agreements to speed up negotiations.
  • Creating a new right for major infrastructure projects that include housing development elements to be fast-tracked through the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) regime.(This is perhaps one of the most significant proposals arising from the announcements and a separate post has been provided on this.)

The reforms clearly demonstrate a commitment by the Government to introducing greater flexibility and freedoms to the planning regime in an effort to boost UK productivity growth. Despite this, with the shifted focus on increasing the speed and ease of planning grants, the changes appear to fly somewhat in the face of recent pledges to encourage greater local community involvement in planning applications.

Whilst we currently do not have the full details of the content of the reforms, what is clear is that the Government is pressing ahead with its commitment to plugging the gap in the UK housing supply. As the Secretary of State for Business, Sajid Javid declared, the Government is absolutely determined to see more planning permissions granted and more houses built“.

A link to the full ‘Fixing Foundations’ publication is provided here.

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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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