Planning For The Future: White Paper 2020 Summary


Published 6 August 2020 – consultation runs to 29 October 2020 – Changes expected to be implemented next year

Boris Johnson’s Government and Rob “The Builder” Jenrick are intent on smashing the current planning system with a ‘no more fiddling around the edges’ determination. But having demolished it will the rebuilt system and new processes be any better, more simplified, faster or lead to more delivery of houses that are of good design and sustainable?

The 82-page White Paper labels the current planning system inefficient, opaque and making decisions based on discretion rather than rules, frequently leading to poor outcomes.

The themes of modernisation, streamlining and greater use of data/technology run throughout the paper to facilitate the delivery of 300k homes per year.

The proposals in the White Paper fall into three key headings entitled ‘Pillars’.

Pillar One – Planning for Development refers to the already much discussed concept of the ‘zoning’ of land into three categories:

  • Growth areas that are suitable for sustainable development including new settlements, urban extension sites, former industrial sites and urban regeneration sites. Sites categorised as such in the Local Plan (how long will that take?) would have ‘outline approval’ for development. However, all flood risk areas would be excluded from this category.
  • Renewal areas that are suitable for development – to include existing built areas that are suitable for smaller scale development, including densification, infill, town centres and village-edge sites. A statutory presumption in favour of development would not stop LPAs resisting inappropriate development on residential gardens.
  • Protected areas – including Green Belt, AONB and Conservation Areas.

Pillar Two – Planning for Beautiful and Sustainable Places focuses on binding design codes and a planning system which is rooted in local preferences and character. A new design body would be supported by a new chief officer for design and place-making in each local authority (another layer of bureaucracy and subjectivity). A proposal to fast-track planning for beauty by accelerating high quality development reflecting local character and preferences is one of the areas where meaningful engagement will be required with local communities (more delays). In addition, this section deals with sustainability and a renewed commitment to net-zero by 2050 alongside ambitious improvements to energy efficient standards.

Pillar Three – Planning for Infrastructure and Connected Places and proposes a new Infrastructure Levy to replace all CIL and current planning obligations.

The new flat-rate charge would be set nationally at either a single rate or area-specific rates and would be charged on the final value of a development, with the levy also applying to Permitted Developments.

While greater certainty over contributions is expected, the plan is also to include affordable housing contributions within this levy and for local authorities to have more freedom over how they spend it, which will see more trade-offs between infrastructure investment and affordable housing.

As the White Paper is a consultation document is full of consultation questions and alternative ideas for implementation, there appears to be a clear commitment to “rapid” delivery and implementing the changes as quickly as possible after the 12-week consultation period…….. We’ll see.

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