Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced the government will re-think the planning system to speed up applications and simplify decision-making processes.
Mr Jenrick described the current planning system as “overly bureaucratic” in comments made this week, and called for reform as a way to help the economy recover following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Jenrick also said that the planning system will be rethought “from first principles”, and is reportedly working on a series of radical planning reforms.
“I want everyone, no matter where in the country they live, to have access to affordable, safe, and high-quality housing, and to live in communities with a real sense of place. It’s time to re-think planning from first principles,” he said. “The time has come to speed up and simplify this country’s overly bureaucratic planning process”.
Mr Jenrick was speaking following the release of a report by the Policy Exchange think tank, which described the current planning system as a “straitjacket”.
What Changes Could be Made?
Press reports this week have claimed that the government is considering the introduction of US-style zonal planning in the UK.
This would see key planning decisions made by local councils divided into sections, permitting automatic planning permission in certain areas, such as those helping to shape the layout of towns and cities, and enable various types of development.
This, the government says, would simplify the process of granting planning permission for residential and commercial development.
The government is also reportedly convening an expert panel to plan substantive changes to the planning system, and could introduce a new fast-track planning system for builders of high-quality, well-designed buildings.
But the radical changes could move the planning system back, according to Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the countryside planning charity.
“The call to rip up the red tape in our planning system only moves us backwards. We cannot continue to allow a free-for-all for speculative developers and deregulation won’t improve the quantity or quality of homes,” he said.
“Recent reforms haven’t tackled the affordable housing crisis but have allowed developers to get poorly designed housing developments through the system, often on appeal.”
Jenrick insisted that high-quality design and sensitivity to local areas must be paramount to any new reforms, but there is concern that further deregulation could end up hurting development quality.
“To create a planning system fit for the future the government must introduce reforms to strengthen local participation and ensure our countryside and green spaces are protected and enhanced, not just seen as land waiting to be developed,” said Fyans.
“Only then will we create truly liveable, genuinely affordable and low carbon places to live, with plenty of access to green spaces for all.”
Mr Jenrick pledged in March to speed up the planning system, although the Planning White Paper scheduled for release in spring is yet to be published.