Jenrick talks up planning system changes
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has said that the draft changes to England’s planning system will "be faster" and "build better quality homes".
Within the proposed laws unveiled over the weekend, “automatic” permission will be given to developers looking to build homes and schools on sites earmarked for “growth”.
Jenrick also called the existing and “complex” planning system a “barrier to building the homes people need”.
He told the BBC: "We have a major housing challenge but also a major economic challenge and a lot of people's jobs depend on this industry. We think our new system will still be democratic, it will still have local engagement, but it will be much faster and help us to meet the needs of the next generation."
It follows up prime minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to bring forward investment into homes and infrastructure to help drive the economic recovery following Covid-19, but critics of the new laws worry that poor quality housing and a lack of control over development could come about as a result.
Labour shadow housing and planning minister, Mike Amesbury, called the plans a “developer’s charter” which will “sideline” communities in decisions and deny them of “vital funding for building schools, clinics and community infrastructure”.
The white paper on planning is now out for consultation and contains a number of plans to hasten the process of building homes in England.
Local Government Association chair James Jamieson dismissed the notion that the planning system proved a barrier to homes being built, claiming that nine in ten planning applications were approved by local authorities but over one million homes that had been given permission to be built over the last ten years were still awaiting construction.
Among new planning measures first outlined by the government in June, homeowners will be able to build above their properties without having to undergo the normal planning process and developers will have the right to build above vacant premises, or choose to demolish and rebuild them.
Builders will also be able to convert more commercial properties into homes, despite criticism that being able to do so with a more limited range of buildings in the first place had led to poor quality and small flats being built.
Within the white paper, land is to be designated into three categories, those being “growth”, “renewal” or “protected” which affects the level of planning permission required. There will be a new fast-track system for what are deemed to be “beautiful buildings” and there will be new planning proposals online to allow local communities consultation on the planning process from the start.
The paper states that any new streets must be tree-lined, and all local authorities are to have a local plan for housing in place.
There is also a new “first homes scheme” outlined in the paper, which will provide new build homes at a 30 per cent discount for first-time buyers, individuals local to the area, and key workers.
A new charge on developers will replace the current Section 106 agreement and Community Infrastructure Levy in generating funding for schools, roads, and other such projects.
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said that the new charge will “aim to at least maintain revenue levels nationally when compared to the current system, and to ensure that delivery of affordable housing on-site is maintained.”
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, stressed the importance of any Section 106 continuing to guarantee delivery of affordable housing, since the existing agreements were already “the single biggest contribution to building new affordable homes”.