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Planning for the Future

Following the announcements in the 2020 Budget, government have released 'Planning for the Future' which sets out their plans for for housing and planning.

In his first Budget since unexpectedly taking on the job from Sajid Javid, Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday set out an ambitious package of investment in housing and supporting infrastructure. This was followed by a statement in the House of Commons today by Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the publication of a new policy paper ‘Planning for the Future.’

The headline funding announcements are as follows:

  • The extension of the Affordable Homes Programme with a new five year settlement of £12 billion available from the start of the 2021/22 financial year. This will be distributed by Homes England and the Greater London Authority;
  • The allocation of a further £1.1 billion from the Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock 70,000 homes in 9 areas;
  • The announcement of a £400 million Brownfield Housing Fund for local authorities to bid for;
  • The allocation of £1 billion from the Transforming Cities Fund to deliver a range of local transport schemes across the country;
  • Making £1 billion available to support remediation for building safety;
  • The award of £27 billion for motorways and other key roads.

The government will also launch a £10 billion Single Housing Infrastructure Fund to be used to deliver strategic infrastructure and assemble land for development, and redouble its efforts to deliver the first National Infrastructure Strategy. Further details of each of these initiatives are expected in due course.

The government intends to publish a ‘bold and ambitious’ Planning White Paper in the Spring. The Chancellor’s statement included strong wording promising a stricter approach to releasing land for development and greater Government intervention should Local Planning Authorities fail to meet their housing need. Planning for the Future provides little detail of this, other than setting a new deadline for local authorities to have an up-to-date Local Plan in place by December 2023. Whilst there is a hint of international influence with reference to increased zoning and a commitment to reflect international best practice, there is no mention of Green Belt within the document.

A renewed commitment is made to the delivery of 300,000 new homes a year through a reviewed formula for local housing need, to encourage greater building within and near to urban areas. Further commitments are made to improve routes to home ownership, for example through the First Homes scheme, as well as ensuring further protections for tenants.

A brownfield-first agenda is pursued. Alongside the Brownfield Housing Fund, the government is to publish a national brownfield sites map in April 2020 and will consult on opportunities to build above stations in urban areas. Permitted development rights will be provided to extend existing residential blocks upwards by up to two storeys, and there will be a consultation on new rights to demolish vacant commercial, industrial and residential buildings to replace them with well-designed new residential units.

There is recognition of the under-resourcing of local authorities’ planning departments. Application fees are to be reformed linked to a new performance framework and the New Homes Bonus will be revised to reward delivery. There is a sly dig at local politics within a proposal to entitle applicants to an automatic fee rebate should appeals be successful.

Principles of good design will be embedded in a further revised NPPF, building on the recommendations of the Building Better, Building Beautiful commission. Local communities are also to be given more say in design and will be able to produce their own local design guides and codes, which will be embedded in planning policy. Developers will be no doubt be concerned about how this will work in practice and sit along side the intention to accelerate planning. 

The white paper will be followed by a series of major publications and legislation including:

  • A Building Safety Bill, to bring about the biggest change in building safety for a generation
  • A Renters' Reform Bill to provide greater stability for those who rent their homes
  • A Social Housing White Paper to protect tenants of social homes
  • A Housing Strategy to be published later in the year, informed by each of the above and setting out longer-term plans to deliver homes and create a fairer housing market

Planning for the Future provides further details of a ‘green home building revolution’, centred around the Future Homes Standard which will embed carbon targets into the Building Regulations requiring 80% lower carbon emissions for all new homes by 2025.  

Overall, Planning for the Future reads as a positive publication for the development industry however there is bound to be scepticism given the number of times the government has promised to simplify and speed up the planning system. There will no doubt be concern about increased community involvement in design and more stringent environmental requirements, nevertheless some new ideas have been put forward and the industry will be keen to see further detail within the forthcoming Planning White Paper and supporting publications.

Planning for the Future can be read here.

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