Productivity blueprint toughens Whitehall stance on local planning

10 Jul 15

Councils that fail to produce local housing and commercial development plans could be forced to do so by the local government secretary Greg Clark, according to proposals in the Treasury’s national productivity plan.

A deadline for town halls to develop local plans will be fixed later this month, and league tables setting out local authorities’ progress will follow.

“Where they are not [making progress], the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will intervene for those local authorities that do not produce them, to arrange for local plans to be written, in consultation with local people,” today’s Fixing the Foundations report stated.

The document includes proposals to introduce automatic planning permission for housing on brownfield land, and to quicken the planning process by extending the scope of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Regime to cover major infrastructure projects with an element of housing.

Further steps intended to boost housebuilding include a new dispute resolution mechanism for section 106 agreements, while greater freedoms will remove the need for planning permission to add extra storeys to buildings in London if they match the height of adjoining buildings.

Publishing the plan, Chancellor George Osborne said an improved rate of housebuilding was vital to improving the UK’s economic output.

The national productivity plan is intended to help the country match productivity levels in the US, adding 31% to the UK economy.
“The only way to sustainably raise the living standards of the citizens of our nation is to confront the challenge of our lifetime, to raise productivity,” he added.

“This will not be achieved overnight and will require a truly national effort by government, business and working people. But with this blueprint to fix the foundations of our economy, I believe that we have taken the vital first step towards securing the prosperity and a livelihoods of generations to come.”

Clark said local plans were needed to put local people in control of planning.

“Today’s proposals ensure we go further and faster, removing the barriers so we can keep the country building and support hard-working people to achieve their dream of home ownership,” he added.

Shadow communities secretary Emma Reynolds said Labour would look at the proposed changes but accused the government of presiding over the lowest level of homes built in peacetime since the 1920s and the lowest level of homeownership in three decades.

The Local Government Association said councils want to see brownfield sites developed and that these measures could help with that.

However, housing spokesman Mike Jones said the planning system must remain proportionate and continue to give local communities a say.

“Councils and their planning committees are rightly central to that locally accountable democratic process, allowing local people to have an influence over the changing shape of their neighbourhoods,” he said.

• Today’s publication also confirmed that the government will reform existing Vehicle Excise Duty levies to form a ringfenced fund for road improvements from 2020.

The plan to create what Osborne called “a modern transport system” will include the introduction of new VED bands.

In the first year on the road, a new car will be subject to a levy based on its carbon dioxide emissions. After this, a flat standard rate of £140 will apply in all subsequent years, except for zero emission cars, which will pay nothing. Cars with a list price in excess of £40,000 will incur a supplement of £310 on their standard rate for the first five years in which it is paid.

From 2020/21, this revenue will be used to form a new Roads Fund that will be used to provide “stable investment in the strategic road network for generations to come”, the report stated.

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