Guides & Advice

Planning White Paper | Planning for the Future

Planning White Paper | Planning for the Future

Today (Thursday 6 August) saw the launch of the new government White Paper - Planning for the Future

The overarching thrust is to overhaul the planning system, bring it into the 21st Century, and to make the system “simpler, faster and more predictable”, by “cutting red tape, but not standards”.  There is to be an increased focus on technology, with interactive and accessible map-based online systems replacing notices on lampposts.

What’s wrong with the current planning system?

The paper starts by highlighting issues in the current planning system, such as:

  • the length of time it takes to adopt a Local Plan;
  • the complexity of assessing housing need and viability;
  • the inherent discretionary nature of the system; and
  • the simple fact that not enough homes are being built.

The paper also seeks to highlight the government’s changes to the system since 2010[1] and the abolition of regional strategies, unelected regional planning bodies and empowering communities through neighbourhood planning, and the simplification of the system through the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework – making no mention of the Planning Practice Guidance.

What are the proposed changes?

Local Plans

The proposed changes are for simplified Local Plans, which will be required to categorise land under three separate categories:

  • Growth - areas suitable for substantial development, where outline approval would be automatically secured;
  • Renewal - areas suitable for some development, such as ‘gentle densification’; and
  • Protected - areas where development is restricted.

Local Plans are to set ‘clear rules’, rather than general policies for development - although development plan policies were already key to decision making).

What is more relevant for Local Plans, is that the underpinning evidence base appears likely to go, with a single statutory “sustainability development” test coming in instead.

Going digital

Standardisation and digitisation are both being pushed, which should allow for better transparency and access for all.  Similarly, moving public consultation online may speed the process, albeit as COVID has highlighted, the availability and accessibility of online resources is not currently equal across society, with the elderly and those on very low incomes suffering disproportionately.  If notices on lampposts are to go, then the opportunities for some to engage in planning may also be diminished.

Beautiful buildings and communities

The reforms will also mean the creation of a ‘fast-track system’ for approving the design of beautiful buildings – with communities at the heart of the new system. However, given that beauty is subjective, it remains to be seen how this sits with the new clear rules which are designed to give certainty.

New Infrastructure Levy

Section106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy are to go, to be replaced by an Infrastructure Levy which is intended to sweep away delay caused by negotiating s.106 contributions and arguments over viability.  However, at present this seems fraught with challenges, with the prospect of “average build costs” being used as a means of assessing the value of a development.

Given the huge disparity in build costs between a heavily contaminated brownfield site and an uncontaminated greenfield one, or between e.g. central London and central Lincolnshire, this would seem to be prone to unintended consequences, and could lead to developers seeking to find ways to reduce actual build costs to increase profitability.

Contractual arrangements

It’s also worth noting that the White Paper sets out a desire to consult upon improving the data held on contractual arrangements used to control land, to “promote competition amongst developers”.  Whether a push to record private contracts on the public record survives the consultation remains to be seen.

Strengthening enforcement powers for local authorities

The paper talks about strengthening enforcement powers for local authorities.  Given that these are already extensive, it is unclear what else needs to be done, albeit the promise of introducing stronger powers to address “intentional unauthorised development” could well see a great deal of debate as to whether or not any unauthorised development was deliberate.

What are the next steps?

The consultation runs until 29 October 2020, during which time the government will consult with local government experts, planners, lawyers and the local community on the proposals. Judging by some of the proposals, the ramifications of the white paper could last a lot longer.

[1] Which a pedant might highlight were therefore begun under the Coalition government rather than the current Conservative one 

Contact us
For advice or guidance on how these proposals may affect your developments, or on any other legal planning query, contact Paul Wakefield in our planning team.

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

Our free legal helpline offers bespoke guidance on a range of subjects, from employment and general business matters through to director’s responsibilities, insolvency, restructuring, funding and disputes. We also have a team of experts on hand for any queries on family and private matters too. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.

SHMA® ON DEMAND

Listen to our SHMA® ON DEMAND content covering a broad range of topics to help support you and your business.

Alternatives to Redundancy

30 Sep

Michael Hibbs, Partner
Alternatives to Redundancy

As many companies face serious cash flow issues following Covid disruption, how do you […]

Later Living: Reflections from the last 18 months

1 Oct

Louise Drew, Partner & Head of Building Communities
Later Living: Reflections from the last 18 months

Our population is ever ageing. 12 million people are currently aged 65 and over, […]

Later Living: Role of technology in the later living sector

3 Nov

Andrew Hartshorn, Partner
Later Living: Role of technology in the later living sector

As Later Living providers become more reliant on digital technology, it is important that […]

Later Living: Building for life – planning for a HAPPI life

10 Nov

Louise Drew, Partner & Head of Building Communities | David Pendle, Associate Director
Later Living: Building for life – planning for a HAPPI life

In this joint webinar with HousingLIN, Jeremy Porteus and Louise Drew we will be […]

Our thoughts

All the latest views and insights on current topics.

Collecting monies via adjudication and enforcement proceedings on behalf of insolvent construction companies

28 Sep

Real Estate & Planning

Collecting monies via adjudication and enforcement proceedings on behalf of insolvent construction companies

In the landmark case of Bresco the courts confirmed that a liquidator of an […]

Read article Right Arrow

Sending in the bailiffs… no longer an option for landlords

17 Sep

Real Estate & Planning

Sending in the bailiffs… no longer an option for landlords

Products & Propositions Sending in the bailiffs… no longer an option for landlords Fixed price […]

Read article Right Arrow

All aboard for more changes to possession proceedings following the Governments extension on the stay

14 Sep

Real Estate & Planning

All aboard for more changes to possession proceedings following the Governments extension on the stay

Read article Right Arrow

Building on our Scots law offering with new dual-qualified real estate partner

10 Sep

Real Estate & Planning

Building on our Scots law offering with new dual-qualified real estate partner

Read article Right Arrow

Shakespeare Martineau supports the sale of head office of Nottingham software firm

9 Sep

Real Estate & Planning

Shakespeare Martineau supports the sale of head office of Nottingham software firm

Read article Right Arrow

5G: Changing the future of workspaces

2 Sep

Real Estate & Planning

5G: Changing the future of workspaces

Read article Right Arrow

Building for a Healthy Life: putting wellbeing at the forefront of housing

27 Aug

Real Estate & Planning

Building for a Healthy Life: putting wellbeing at the forefront of housing

Read article Right Arrow

Call us on 0330 024 0333 to find out more about what we can do for you.