Planning Ahead -The New Labour Planning Reforms

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It is encouraging to hear from Rachel Reeves in her first speech as chancellor on Monday that the new Labour government is placing growth-oriented planning policy at the heart of its reform of the UK’s planning system and agenda for sustained economic growth. Pundits forecast it could boost the economy by £100bn, unlocking private investment and improving living standards with the aim of making every part of Britain better off.

Proposed new measures include the following:

  • Starting with a review of the National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”) and a revised draft NPPF expected in August, mandatory local housing targets will be reinstated, the presumption in favour of sustainable development strengthened and the de facto ban on onshore wind farms reversed.
  • A pledge to build 1.5 million homes during the next parliament through a new housebuilding programme with a “gold-standard” target of 40% affordable housing including more social rent.
  • Ensuring that any investment opportunity with important planning considerations is brought to the attention of Angela Rayner, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and to the Chancellor by local mayors and the Office of Investment so that the economic benefit of a development is a key consideration.
  • Relaxing planning restrictions on green belt development by regularly reviewing green belt boundaries and releasing lower quality “grey belt” land with new “golden rules” to ensure developments benefit communities and nature.
  • Implementing fast-track approval of urban brownfield sites to support housing targets.
  • Unblocking key stalled developments to get large housing schemes moving forward starting with Liverpool Central Docks, Northstowe, Worcester Parkway and Langley Sutton Coldfield and the recovery of two appeals for data centres in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.
  • Ensuring local planning authorities have up-to-date local plans and potentially using sanctions for those failing to update them.
  • Introducing a new statutory requirement for Local Growth Plans.
  • Setting out new policy intentions for critical infrastructure in the coming months ahead of updating relevant National Policy Statements within the next 12 months with a review every 5 years.
  • Building on the Strategic Spatial Energy Plan to speed up the roll out of clean power and expand the use of spatial planning to other infrastructure sectors.
  • Implementing a review of how the government can unlock critical infrastructure without weakening environmental protections to help speed up delivery on transport, energy and large scale infrastructure at greater pace.
  • Prioritising energy projects in the planning system with a consultation on including onshore wind power developments in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) planning regime.
  • Providing 300 additional planning officers across the country to support local planning authorities.

Whilst this is an ambitious start for the new government with promises of a new era for economic growth, as ever the devil is in the detail. If the proposals can be implemented as planned, it will boost the economy and ease pressure on the housing market by providing much needed affordable homes, improve the delivery of critical infrastructure, clean energy and strategic development.

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