Today’s Queen’s Speech confirms that the Government intends to legislate to “modernise the planning system, so that more homes can be built”, following the Planning White Paper. Whilst the legislative detail is awaited, very significant changes to the system are envisaged.
The Government appears to confirm that the Bill will promote the designation of areas for “growth”, “renewal and “protection” through changing the local plans system, together with an emphasis on “better designed places”. A clearer direction on the substantive content of local plans will mark a significant departure from the existing legislative framework, which gives a broad discretion to local authorities as to how they should approach plan-making. Details on the prescriptiveness of the new provisions, including the timing of new plans and the means by which they will be examined, will be keenly awaited by local planning authorities and the rest of the industry.
To make a “simpler, faster and more modern system”, and to give effect to the quasi-zonal approach in local plans, it seems likely that changes will be made to the primary decision-making framework in the Planning Acts. Again, the detail on how this will be achieved are awaited, but some substantive re-writing of central parts of the current system is expected.
Other fundamental changes which are proposed in the Bill include replacing “the existing systems for funding affordable housing and infrastructure from development with a new more predictable and more transparent levy”. This seems to spell the end of CIL; but perhaps even more fundamentally, may point towards contribution-based funding of affordable housing provision as the rule, rather than as the exception to the rule.
It is also proposed to “simplify and enhance” the system for environmental assessment. Again, this may spell significant changes for major development proposals. There is also a proposal to reform the framework for locally led development corporations.
Whilst the Planning Bill is the highest profile element for those in the industry, there are other Bills that will also affect the development industry. The suite of proposed legislation includes provision for 5G and broadband coverage, freeports, and the next phase of HS2. Other provisions will change the law of procurement, and change the regulation of building safety. The Environment Bill, which has already been extensively debated, is carried over. There is much of interest in here, although as usual, the true effects of the proposals will only be known once the detail is available.
The Planning Group at Landmark Chambers will be providing further analysis in due course.
The core briefing document may be accessed here.