‘A whole new planning system for England’ is what Boris Johnson was promising in his introduction to the Planning White Paper. He also took a sideswipe at the current system for providing “nowhere near enough homes in the right places”.
However, the proposed radical reforms to shift planning away from discretionary decision making to a zonal system have now been paused, following the outcome of the Chesham and Amersham by-election and the appointment of Michael Gove as Secretary of State.
Whilst the government ponders the future of planning, there are other measures that might be used to help deliver the government’s 300,000 annual homes target. Expansion of permitted development rights has offered a quick fix to housing delivery in recent years and is a trend that may well continue. The latest and perhaps most controversial change is the introduction of permitted development Class MA in August 2021, allowing the conversion of buildings in Use Class E to residential use. Class E was introduced as recently as September 2020 and incorporates a wide range of commercial uses, including offices, shops, restaurants, cafés, health services, nurseries, gyms and leisure uses.
In sharp contrast to many schemes that have resulted from the exercise of permitted development rights, the recently revised National Planning Policy Framework now emphasises the virtues of “fostering well-designed, beautiful and safe places”. So, the challenge Michael Gove faces is to devise a system that accelerates housing delivery whilst maintaining public engagement and supporting the placemaking agenda by providing well-designed homes in the right places. Watch this space!
This article appears in our Investing in Living report. To access the full report, please click on the link to the right of this page.