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Sun June 13 2021

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MPs call for planning reform re-think

3 days A cross-party committee of MPs has called on the government to re-think it plans to reform the planning system in England.

The House of Commons housing, communities and local government committee found that local authorioty planning departments lack the resources to implement the proposed reforms.

The commitee's report, The future of the planning system in England, published today, recommends that the government must stump up an extra £125m a year for local planning departments so that they can do their jobs properly.

The report says: “The government has proposed that local areas will be divided (through local plans) into three parts: growth, renewal and protected, with different planning rules applying in each. We have sympathy with the government’s wish to enhance the importance of Local Plans, but we are unpersuaded that the government’s zoning-based approach will produce a quicker, cheaper, and democratic planning system.

“The government should reconsider the case for the three areas proposal. If the government does proceed with the principle of the three areas proposal, consideration should be given to the inclusion of additional categories. Further details also need to be provided—particularly around how much detail will be needed in local plans, the impact of the three areas proposal on vital infrastructure, and who will determined if local plan requirements have been met.”

It says: “The government has proposed replacing the current Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy with a national infrastructure levy. We find that there is a case for replacing the latter, but not the former. Preserving Section 106 will protect against a possible loss of affordable housing. We think that the proposals of the 2017 review into the Community Infrastructure Levy and our predecessor committee’s recommendations for greater land value capture represent the best way of ensuring sufficient revenue. If the government does proceed it will need to charge various local rates and provide additional funding for the infrastructure that will not be met out of the levy revenues.”

It concludes: “There is a need for additional resources for planning departments, and specialist skills. The pressures on the system will only increase if the government proceeds with its reforms, including the thirty-month timeframe for local plans, at the same time as local planning authorities are also operating the current system.

“The Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government should now seek to obtain a Treasury commitment for an additional £500m over four years for local planning authorities. Providing this certainty of funding should precede the introduction of the Planning Bill.”

Response

Royal Town Planning Institute chief executive Victoria Hills said: “This is a thorough and comprehensive report by the select committee. As we have emphasised to government, resourcing for planning is inadequate and reforms will place further demands on them unless this issue is addressed. The committee is entirely correct to state that a major programme of reform is now contingent on government first ensuring the resources are in place. I applaud the call for Treasury to commit now to putting this in place.

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“We agree that a skills and resourcing strategy should precede the bill. As the committee also noted, the RTPI have called for further support for our flagship apprenticeships, as well as for chief placemakers to be chartered planners.

 “The committee’s recommendations for further nuance within the areas of the proposed zonal system are common sense. As the report noted, we think growth areas have the potential to be excellent enablers of development, but suburbs and industrial areas require very different approaches.”

Cllr David Renard, Local Government Association planning spokesperson, said: “Councils want to work with government on developing the detail of its Planning Bill and to go further and faster to tackle our housing crisis.

“With more than 1.1 million homes given planning permission over the past decade yet to be built and councils approving 9 in 10 planning applications, it is clear that the planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding and that it is the housing delivery system which is in need of reform.

“There are also more than a million more homes on land earmarked in local plans for development by councils that are yet to be brought forward by developers for planning permission.

“It is therefore good the committee backs our call for councils to be able to levy full council tax on incomplete properties, as an incentive to get developers building more quickly.

“A local, democratically-led planning system remains critical so local communities can continue to have their say on developments, ensure the right homes are built in the right places and shape the area they live in.”

An spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said: “We have not yet published a response to the consultation so these conclusions are speculative. As the report rightly identifies, the planning system is in need of improvement and our reforms will mean a quicker, more efficient and less bureaucratic planning system so we can build more much needed homes across the country.

“Local people and high quality design will be at the heart of these changes, while protecting our heritage and green spaces."

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