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Jeremy's Blog 13/08/20: A Radical Shock for Planners?

This article by Jeremy Moody first appeared in the CAAV e-Briefing of 13th August 2020.

The proposals in the two planning consultation papers issued last week for England appear to be a genuinely radical shock for the system. They go much further than the zoning proposals of the headlines, shaking the 70 year old foundations of planning and what local planning authorities do.

Focussed on housing, rather than other development, the force of the proposals lies in their approach to housing demand. With 300,000 new dwellings a year seen as needed since at least the 2004 Barker Report, the Government would now set binding housing numbers for each LPA, when local plans currently provide for some 187,000 and last year saw some 241,000 built (including those under permitted development rights). That is a substantial increase in the numbers to be provided for.

Allocating that between LPAs is now to take significant account of house prices – the market’s barometer of demand and so where would-be occupiers would like housing to be. The current system has been criticised for disregarding that, so adding to the affordability problem requiring more counter-measures.

The measure used for this will be house prices as a multiple of incomes of those who work in each area in question. Where this multiple is more than 4, that will lead to more houses being expected to be provided. That will be the case for large areas of the country.

Those figures will drive the areas that each LPA will have to identify in its new local plan as Growth, Renewal and Protection areas. It is not suggested that the figures will be for substantive argument though interesting to see how LPAs will approach the politics of selecting Growth Areas. With legislation and then 30 months for plan making, that suggests the new regime might just be in place in 2024.

In at least Growth Areas, that zoning will be the planning permission for all development that meets the design requirements that the LPAs will set, drawing on the work of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. That will be their new role, not deciding permissions.

Finally, CIL and much of s.106 obligations are to be replaced by a nationally-set Infrastructure Levy on the final capital value of the development before occupation above threshold to protect lower value development. We wait to see how this might fit with biodiversity net gain.

This is the start; we wait to see how well that structure survives the reaction.

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