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Jeremy's Blog 23rd July 2021: Planning

This article by Jeremy Moody first appeared in the CAAV e-Briefing of 22nd July 2021.

The Government in London is clearing desks before Parliament goes into Recess tonight. Tuesday saw statements on planning policy for housing in England, one of the most significant controversies for the coming months.

The bones of the policy set out in August 2020’s White Paper are for:

  • 300,000 houses a year, allocated where house price/local earnings ratios show demand
  • councils to identify growth zones to take development and protection zones
  • councils to develop Design Codes, drawing on the work of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission
  • development proposals in growth zones to have approval by meeting the local design code
  • a national levy replacing CIL and s.106.

Attracting criticism in south-east England over additional development pressure and loss of local discretion over individual applications, these have been seen as a factor in Government reverses in Home Counties elections. In April, the Government reviewed allocation policy, steering additional housing to 20 conurbations, while Transport for London is to find land for 50,000 houses after support given to its finances.

While the Planning Bill is due this autumn, the Government has now published the new NPPF and the National Model Design Code, emphasising the need for beauty and place, and established the Office for Place. Speaking to Policy Exchange, Robert Jenrick observed that:

  • the results of post-War policies have fuelled criticism of development
  • the public has a bias to prefer housing built before 1947

and argued that the new policies with their design focus remedy that. Pilots for the development of local design codes include four Herefordshire parishes and a garden settlement near Cullompton; perhaps an answer on local engagement.

NPPF changes also warn councils against removing permitted development rights, especially the enlarged ones for residential conversion, though their relationship with the Design Code is an issue. Policies on isolated rural housing are little changed, keeping the provision for houses for those taking control of farm businesses (now paragraph 80(a)).

While one theme is encouraging smaller builders, many lost in the 2008 crisis, little is seen to create new ones while large developers hold options over much land.

Needing more and better housing, the Government is navigating between many of its present voters wanting protection and its potential future voters wanting housing. With the fierce competition between land uses, part of the answer may be new settlements with master plans when developers might just be builders.

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