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Sweeping reforms will give new schemes ‘automatic’ planning permission

A major planning overhaul in England will allow ‘automatic’ planning permission for new homes, hospitals, schools, shops and offices

3 AUGUST 2020 BY W HURST

Ministers will this week announce a planning ‘revolution’ that will force local authorities to allocate land for developments that will then not have to go through the full planning process.
Under the new process, land will be designated in one of three zoning categories: ‘for growth, for renewal or for protection’.

In the first two categories there will be a new legal ‘permission in principle’ approach for new buildings, it is understood. Areas of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt will come under the protection category where most new buildings will be automatically banned.

The reforms will be published this week in a paper entitled Planning for the Future and follow an extension of permitted development rights announced earlier this summer.

Critics including the RIBA, the Local Government Association and the charity Shelter have already said that the move would lead to poor-quality new houses being built in areas without adequate public services and would lessen democratic accountability.

RIBA President Alan Jones said deregulation would not deliver new homes and called for the government to ‘urgently reconsider’.

He said: ’For too long, England’s housing market has failed to meet public demand while generating enormous returns for shareholders and executives of the large housebuilders.

’We urgently need a broad mix of affordable, age-friendly and sustainable housing – but it looks as though this so called ”planning revolution” will deliver the opposite.

’Only two weeks ago the government saw fit to extend Permitted Development regulations, contrary to its own experts and research, which have made clear the damaging consequences. The government has missed a huge opportunity to make changes to the planning system for the better.’

However, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, housing minister Robert Jenrick insisted the move would speed up and simplify development without compromising quality.

‘Local building plans were supposed to help councils and their residents deliver more homes in their area, yet they take on average seven years to agree in the form of lengthy and absurdly complex documents and accompanying policies understandable only to the lawyers who feast upon every word,’ Jenrick wrote.

‘Our reformed system places a higher regard on quality and design than ever before, and draws inspiration from the idea of design codes and pattern books that built Bath, Belgravia and Bournville,’ he wrote. ‘John Ruskin said that we must build and when we do let us think that we build forever. That will be guiding principle as we set out the future of the planning system.

‘New developments will be beautiful places, not just collections of buildings. Good design is the best antidote to local objections to building.’

Jenrick also claimed new homes would be ‘environmentally friendly’ to avoid the need for expensive future retrofitting and would have access to green space and parks.

He added that the reforms would ‘create thousands of new jobs, from bricklayers to architects’.

Further comments:

Jonny Anstead, board member, Quality of Life Foundation

’We have to deliver more houses to meet need, but we need to ensure that those houses enhance people’s wellbeing and don’t put further strain on the planet.

’Permitted development rights have shown the risks of deregulation, and countless examples of disconnected and poorly designed developments continue to call into question the UK’s current housebuilding model.

’What social, economic and environmental safeguards will the new reforms come with? How will they encourage developments based on local need, whether that’s home ownership or social housing? And how will they create a diverse range of housing that encourage both small and large producers to get involved? These are just some of the questions that remain unanswered.’

Local Government Association chairman, Cllr James Jamieson

‘Any suggestion that planning is a barrier to housebuilding is a myth. Nine in 10 planning applications are approved by councils, while more than a million homes given planning permission in the last decade have not yet been built.

‘We all want great communities. The planning system needs to be able to ensure developments are of a high standard, are built in the right places, include affordable homes and are supported by infrastructure that provides enough schools, promotes greener and more active travel, and tackles climate change.

‘The government’s own independent report warned of the worse quality of homes not delivered through the planning system. We urge the government to heed these warnings and not further side-line the planning process.’

Polly Neate, chief executive, Shelter

’Instead of getting England building faster, major changes to the planning system could actually slow us down.

’Housebuilders risk facing uncertainty as they scramble to understand the new system and what it means for their plans – just as the construction industry is facing a huge economic downturn. It could inadvertently put the frighteners on developers building new homes.

’Planning permission is not what is stopping England from getting high-quality, genuinely affordable homes built – a lack of government investment is.’

Architect’s Journal. 2020. Sweeping reforms will give new schemes ‘automatic’ planning permission. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/sweeping-reforms-will-give-new-schemes-automatic-planning-permission. [Accessed 6 August 2020].

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