May vows to ‘rewrite planning rules’

5 Mar 18

The prime minister has announced today a ‘major overhaul’ of the planning rules, aimed at increasing the rate of home delivery in England.

Theresa May said planning policy in the “right hands can be a powerful tool” but had been “used incorrectly” for “so many years”, at a planning conference in London this morning.  

“We’re making sure councils do all they can to find sites, grant planning permissions and build homes,” she said.

She announced a ‘nationwide standard’ would be introduced for local authorities to show how many homes they needed to plan for in their areas.

“We’re streamlining the planning process, so that much-needed homes aren’t held up by endless appeals and bureaucracy,” she added.

Local authorities will be encouraged to work together to close the gap between planning permissions granted and homes built, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said, releasing the revised draft of the National Planning Policy Framework.  

The framework would allow councils to hold developers to account if they did not comply with “what’s expected of them”, the department promised. The expectations would be made “clearer, simpler and more robust”, the MHCLG added. 

“While planning reform is part of the answer, all the evidence shows that reforming planning and expecting the existing developers to build all the homes we need is pie in the sky”, she noted.

May also promised “local communities will be put at the heart of the planning process by seeing to it that all areas have an up-to-date [local] plan”.

The government may allow councils to take a developer’s previous rate of built-out into account when deciding planning permission, depending on the findings of Oliver Letwin’s current review of planning permission, May added.

“I want to see planning permissions going to people who are actually going to build houses, not just sit on land and watch its value rise,” she said.

The new rules will also aim to see infrastructure to support development, as she recognised local people often opposed these because “they’re worried their village or town simply won’t be able to bear the weight of hundreds of new arrivals”.

Housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid told the Sunday Times in an interview this weekend that he would strip planning powers from councils that were not delivering the numbers of homes promised.

He warned local authorities “government will be breathing down your neck to make sure you are actually delivering”.

He will be making a speech on the proposed National Planning Policy Framework revision in the Commons this afternoon.

Javid told the Sunday Times he would target ‘nimby’ [not in my back yard] councils who “don’t really want to build the homes that their local community needs”.

Lord Porter, chair of the Local Government Association, hit back saying: “The truth is that councils are currently approving nine in 10 planning applications, which shows that the planning system is working well and is not a barrier to building.

“It is completely wrong, therefore, to suggest the country’s failure to build the housing it desperately needs is down to councils.”

The government also said it would give councils more “freedom” to make the most of existing brownfield land to build homes that maximise density.

The consultation on the draft revised National Planning Policy Framework will run until 10 May 2018.

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