Planning system reform

The proposals

The government has announced a suite of planning reforms with the aim of using the planning system to restart the UK economy in the aftermath of COVID-19.

On 6 August, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) released two consultations on:

Changes to the current planning system

To improve the effectiveness of the planning system, the government consulted on:

  • changes to the standard method for assessing local housing need
  • setting developer contributions for the First Homes scheme
  • temporarily lifting the small sites threshold for small and medium-sized builders
  • extending the permission in principle to major development

Planning for the future

The government is seeking views on a package of proposals for reforming the planning system in England.

The proposed reforms are made up of five stages:

  • simplifying the role of local plans
  • digitising the planning process
  • developing new standards for design and sustainability
  • reforming developer contributions
  • increasing land supply and supporting renewal of town and city centres

Our view

We support action to boost the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic, but we believe that a ‘kneejerk’ reaction using the planning system will not be sustainable.

Hurried planning reform could damage both the physical environment and the overarching principles of planning.

There must be a properly thought-out review of the whole planning system with a view to legislating for fundamental reform.

Making sure that new laws are good laws will take time and needs thorough consultation to avoid any unintended consequences.

However ‘radical’ any planning reform is, it must be carbon net-zero compatible to make progress. There must be an effective investment framework to deliver national priorities locally.

Changes to the current planning system

In our response, we warned that reforming the whole system at once could lead to uncertainty, especially in light of the impacts of COVID-19 and the end of the transition period.

We believe that government should look at the planning system holistically and decide which parts to reform and when.

We support the introduction of a standard method so long as the new system recognises the complexities of different areas when generating numbers for housing supply.

We would welcome clearer guidance for local planning authorities.

The government should consider whether raising the small sites threshold for a time-limited period would achieve the intended benefits.

A more targeted approach to support SME builders to deliver new homes might be to introduce viability advice and planning application grants for smaller developers.

We doubt that extending permission in principle (PiP) to major developments would make much practical difference.

We suggest that the government consults with lenders on PiP’s value before acting on the proposals.

Read our full consultation response

Planning for the future

We’re forming our response to this consultation.

We’ll update this page with more information when we publish our response.

Next steps

The consultation on changes to the planning system closed on 1 October.

The government is analysing the feedback.

The consultation on planning for the future closes on 29 October.

What we’re doing

October 2020 – we responded to MHCLG’s consultation on changes to the current planning system

July 2020 – we responded to MHCLG’s consultation on the First Homes scheme

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