Successive governments have set out ambitions to speed up and simplify the planning process so it came as no surprise that the government used its party conference to outline further information to be included in the Accelerated Planning Green Paper.
This week’s announcement is on the back of seeing the impact of the recommendations of the Rosewell Review, which seem to be working in terms of speeding up planning appeal inquiries.
The green paper was first announced in the Spring statement in March of this year. This week the overarching themes of the green paper were confirmed as follows:
- The paper will include proposals to speed up the planning system at all levels of development, from large scale developers down to individual householders. At present there is little detail on how this will be achieved, other than reference to allowing planning authorities to increase the fees payable, on the basis that this would facilitate a more efficient service.
- The quid pro quo would be the potential for fees to be refunded if councils take too long to decide on specific planning applications.
Simplification of planning guidance, with the introduction of a new tiered planning system. In a nod to the localism agenda, this is likely to be the most beneficial to individual homeowners, as well as smaller residential schemes.
- Fees for planning application fees will also be reviewed to ensure council planning departments are properly resourced. This is aimed at providing more qualified planners within planning authorities, to speed up the process in terms of applications for new homes. However, what is really needed is a long term solution to the attraction of talent into the planning arena. It will be interesting to see whether there will be investment in the recruitment of the next generation of planners, as well as resource for the retention of those currently working within local authorities.
- The government also stated an ambition to reduce planning conditions by a third. This follows on from the recent reforms restricting the use of pre-commencement conditions. It continues the theme of the government seeming to focus planning conditions as slowing up the planning process, and it will be interesting to see how the proposals to cut conditions by a third will be framed.
- The government will also take forward proposals to allow homes to be built above existing properties, as a means of assisting with the delivery of higher housing numbers.
- There was also a reference from the government to seeking views on demolishing old commercial buildings for new housing, revitalising high streets in the process.
Interestingly, the announcement stopped short of mentioning any review of the CPO process as a way to kick start regeneration. When the green paper was originally announced in March, James Brokenshire (the then housing minister) made specific reference to the need for reform of the compulsory purchase regime, a move which would no doubt be welcomed by the industry.
The accelerated planning green paper will be published in November 2019 so watch this space for further developments...