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“Failing to Plan/Planning to Fail”

The Government’s Review of the planning system with increased emphasis on the production of Local Plans by Councils and the need for planning applications to be determined in a more timely manner, is welcome news for all those involved within the property industry as well as homeowners.  Following the launch of the Government’s Road Map to boost productivity in the UK, the Planning system is set for a series of updates including possible Government intervention if Councils fail to produce a Local Plan on time.

The Chancellor’s Fixing the Foundations Productivity Plan sets out a number of planning changes including proposals to legislate to grant automatic planning permission on suitable brown field sites.  The proposals also include deadlines for Councils to have Local Plans in place and for league tables to be published recording Council progress. In the event that Local Authorities fail to produce a Local Plan,there are provisions for Government intervention with ultimately the development of Local Plans potentially taken out of the Local Authority’s hands.

The Productivity Plan seeks to improve planning performance with the current requirement for 40% of major applications to be determined on time (to avoid sanctions) being increased to 50%. The Government is also proposing to legislate in order to improve the performance of determining minor applications albeit there are no thresholds set at this stage. However, the risk of the Government setting such target dates and specific performance measures is that Local Authorities will potentially refuse applications or encourage applications to be withdrawn in order to merely satisfy Government targets.

The key announcements include:-

1) Steps to speed up Local Plan production.The Government will intervene where Councils have failed to put Local Plans in place and is endeavouring to streamline the planning process.

2) A zonal system for brown field land. Automatic planning permission in principle for sites identified in statutory registers of brownfield land suitable for housing.

3) Planning performance regime tightened.50% of major applications to be determined on time.

4) Fast track planning for mixed use schemes.Adoption of a major infrastructure scheme for nationally significant projects. The Government’s Productivity Plan includes provision for allowing major infrastructure projects which incorporate an element of housing although there is no definition of what this actually constitutes.

5) Zero carbon targets scrapped. Energy efficiency to be kept under review.

6) Upwards extensions in London. No requirement for planning permission to raise the height of buildings in London up to an adjoining building’s height in given circumstances.

7) Focus on commuter hubs. Proposals for high density housing at key commuter hubs.

8) Planning powers for Manchester Mayor. Powers to establish Development Corporations and instigate CPOs for the future Mayor of Manchester.

9) New Enterprise Zones. Re-establishment of Enterprise Zones to facilitate development.

10) Welfare Changes. House building completions in the UK have fallen from over 350,000 houses in 1970 to approximately 140,000 in 2014, and are significantly below Government housing targets of approximately 240,000-245,000 homes per annum. Whilst the Government is actively trying to support small and medium sized house builders as a means of addressing the housing shortfall, the supply of housing is generally controlled by the National House Builders.

Despite the Government’s best intentions of increasing the supply of housing, it is at odds with the recent case of West Berkshire District Council and Reading Borough Council v the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (2015) . This case has overturned the relaxed provisions for smaller scale developments of 10 units or less with a combined gross floor area of no more than 1,000sq.m being exempt from affordable housing or Section 106 payments. As a consequence, a number of small scale residential developments may now be potentially unviable particularly where the development costs are high. Local authorities are required to agree a viability appraisal and if this demonstrates that only a smaller number of affordable units can be delivered by the site, they should accept this.

Ultimately, the value and deliverability of any development site is dependent upon the specific scheme and the associated development costs.

GSC Grays are actively involved with a significant number of development sites across the region. With an intimate knowledge of the market we can assist with valuations or site appraisals as well as strategic business advice.

[team-member name=”Ashley Dodgson”]


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