PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE: The Government’s sweeping new proposals for property development

22 September 2020
Property Development

 

In the first of a special two-part blog, our Commercial Property Partner Andrew Harbourne examines the much discussed and highly important Government consultation paper, Planning For The Future.

I will look at the key points and stress how property developers and anyone with future land development interests should take heed of the new paper, and comment on its proposals.

It is certainly clear that the Government intends to make very substantial changes and very soon. With that in mind, I would strongly recommend that everyone interested in the development of land be aware of the proposals and consider responding to the Consultation.


Planning For The Future: An Overview:

In August, as many of you will have heard, the Government published its Consultation Paper: Planning for the Future. It proposes the most radical planning reforms since 1947 but if you want to respond, you only have until October 29th to do so.

I would urge all of you to open the following link, which gives you the full colour and glossy report with opportunity to comment on proposals at every stage:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/907647/MHCLG-Planning-Consultation.pdf

In summary, consistency within (particularly) the housing development sector across the whole of England seems to be the focus here. The Government appears determined to free-up development in appropriate areas, providing design and environment standards are met. It is also clear that the reforms will affect every type of use and development.

In putting these proposals out to consultation, the Government complains that the current system is too dependent upon the discretion of Local Planning Authorities (LPAs). Instead, it says, the process should be more rules-based, limited in scope, consistent across the country and digitally accessible.

The main risk may be an explosion of unnecessary and unpopular development, but the upsides could be:

  • buildings that are more attractive and carbon-neutral;
  • happier and healthier places to live and work; and
  • net gains for nature.

In short, the Government has a vision for the future of beautiful, carbon-neutral, ecologically-friendly, place-making development.

Consistency is again the focus when you examine another proposal contained within the paper, that being the planned new Infrastructure Levy (IL) to be placed upon developers. It will replace Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and agreements, or unilateral undertakings under s106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (S106 Agreements) and is intended to increase receipts at rates consistent across the country.

Planning For The Future: The Three Pillars:

The Government has three drivers or pillars to its proposals:

  • Planning for development.
  • Planning for beautiful and sustainable places; and
  • Planning for infrastructure and connected places.

In this blog, I’ll consider the first two ‘pillars’, with the new Infrastructure Levy featured in ‘Part Two’ later this week.

Pillar 1 – Planning for Development

The Government proposes that LPAs must create new Local Plans, to last for 10 years, and review them every five years and will likely face sanctions if they don’t get them in place within 30 months.

LPAs must split their area into:

  • Growth Areas – areas allocated for substantial development. These areas are to have outline planning permission automatically for specified types of development. Detail will be dealt with by reserved matters applications.
  • Renewal Areas – areas suitable for smaller developments. There will be a statutory presumption in favour of development for specified uses but planning permission will have to be applied for.
  • Protected Areas - areas where development will require planning permission and it may be hard or impossible to get it. They will include Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Conservation Areas, Local Wildlife Sites, flood risk areas and important areas of green space.

The new Local Plans will be underpinned by an obligation on LPAs to ensure delivery, within the Local Plan period, of housing numbers set by the Government. The focus is to be on areas where housing is least affordable. The current national target is 300,000 new homes a year.

Development management policies created via the National Planning Policy Framework will free up Local Plans to deal with site and area specific issues with those Local Plans being subject to a single “sustainable development test”.

Pillar 2 – Planning for Beautiful and Sustainable Places

Many developments will have to comply with the National Design Guide (published last year), a new National Model Design Code and a revised Manual for Streets (both due this year) and also local guides and codes created by LPAs to reflect local architecture and community input.

But will this approach encourage or discourage innovative architecture? The answer to that remains to be seen, but certainly this is a real point for discussion and comment.

What the Government does expect to see however is net biodiversity gains for new developments. New streets are to be tree-lined and from 2025 new homes are to produce 75-80% less carbon dioxide compared with current levels. This is certainly a real commitment to helping the environment in the long-term. However, pre-development environmental assessments are to be made simpler and quicker and is that compatible with protecting the environment? Another extremely important point for consideration and comment.

Questions are there to be answered and the future is certainly one of change. Now is the time for those within the sector, or others who may have an interest in it, to have their say on what that change should look like.

For advice on any matters within the development sector, Andrew can be contacted on 01522 515592 or email andrew.harbourne@wilkinchapman.co.uk.


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