Government Announces Changes to the Country's Planning System

06/10/2015

The Government has announced that major changes to the country’s planning system need to happen in order to “confront the challenge of our lifetime”. It has warned that Britain isn’t building enough homes and in the future, they will step in to make sure that councils have plans in place that set out how housing needs will be met.

Chancellor, George Osborne, said: “Britain has been incapable of building enough homes. The reforms we made to the planning system in the last parliament have started to improve the situation: planning permissions and housing starts are at a seven-year high. But we need to go further and I am not prepared to stand by when people who want to get on the housing ladder can’t do so. We’ll keep on protecting the green belt, but these latest planning reforms are a vital part of a comprehensive plan to confront the challenge of our lifetime and raise productivity and living standards.”

The Government plans to introduce a ‘zonal’ system meaning that planning permission would be given automatically for housing schemes on brownfield land, although this has been met with some concern. Kate Henderson, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association said: “Our real concern is if you can’t have a conversation about things like internal space standards, accessibility and green space, we’re really risking creating slums of the future. We appreciate the government wants to speed things up, but it shouldn’t just be about quantity but quality. If planning is deregulated any further, we’ll end up with places that we’re going to regret building.”

The move is likely to appease certain sectors in the property industry where the affordability of new homes remains a key issue, with the budget also hitting buy-to-let investors on mortgage interest tax relief. Developers will certainly be supportive of any move which simplifies the planning system and fast tracks applications where possible.

Although automatic planning on brownfield is seen as key for developers to speed up the build process and increase affordability, it remains to be seen whether the new plans will cause tension if local authorities and communities are unable to decide on the best planning for their area.

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