On the back of the Prime Minister’s “build, build, build” statements, proposals that would limit the power of local authorities in planning decisions will be published today. They would become the biggest reform to the planning system for a generation.
Local councils would be given a period of up to three and a half years to identify and designate local areas earmarked for renewal, growth, or protection. But that’s where their control would more or less end as the government is proposing that local councils will not have any or much say over specific planning applications. Instead local residents will be consulted and have their say over how local land is designated (including for renewal, growth, or protection) and on “design codes” against which applications will be considered to ensure that new buildings and developments fit in.
The aim of the proposals is of course to trigger a post-lockdown construction boom as well as an attempt to solve the housing crisis that has been getting steadily worse for a generation. Even though the requirements for developers to provide local affordable housing is likely to be relaxed, there is a target for 300,000 new homes to be built every year from the middle of the decade and a million over the life of the current parliament.
And whilst David Cameron attempted to force local councils to allocate more land for new homes, only half of them in England actually set home-building targets on land allocated for the purpose. Which is presumably why the present government with its large majority feels that it needs to propose a more strategic and systemic reforms to the planning system.
Its aim is also to build new schools and new hospitals in central government capital infrastructure projects. This is a relatively inexpensive way to pump public money into the economy as interest rates are set to remain low.
The irony is that it is apparently likely that Conservative-controlled local authorities will be the strongest and loudest opponents to these new proposals.