Timetable raises questions over whether new-style local plans will be in place before the end of the parliament
The government’s chief planner has said it will be two years before planning reforms published last summer are brought in, raising questions over whether new stripped-down local plans will be in place before the end of the parliament.
Housing ministry chief planner Joanna Averley told an event hosted by countryside charity CPRE last week that the government intends to bring forward a planning bill before the end of the year to deliver its reforms, but that it would be a “couple of years” before the system was in place.
Last summer the government said once the new system was in place local authorities would have 30 months to draw up new local plans, and that the first of these would be in place before the end of the parliament in, December 2024.
Averley said: “The intention is to bring forward a new planning bill this calendar year. We’re now obviously absorbing the fantastic response that we got from people across the industry.
“With a bill being placed this calendar year, you can imagine it will take a period of time to go through the parliamentary process, and then the other statutory processes following on from that. So it will be a couple of years before we see the new system hitting the ground, and local authorities operating in the new system.
“We can’t be absolutely precise about it.”
Averley’s comments follow the publication of a root and branch reform of the planning system in a white paper last August. The government proposed requiring local authorities to zone land into one of three categories – growth, renewal or protection – with automatic outline permission being conferred on growth land.
The reforms also envisaged the scrapping of the Section 106 system of developer contributions, the imposition of mandatory centrally set housing targets, and the creation of new stripped-back local plans, that allocate sites but don’t set local policies.
The government has received more than 44,000 responses to the White Paper consultation, and said just before Christmas that it will set out the likely way forward on its planning reform agenda in further detail in the spring, prior to bringing a bill forward in the autumn.
In order to hit the target of having new-style plans in place before the end of the parliament, the primary legislation and all associated regulations will have to be enacted and enabled by May next year.
Joanna Averley says proposed changes to developer contribution system will proceed ’incredibly carefully’
The government appears set to row back on radical proposals set out last summer to ditch the current Section 106 system in favour of a flat-rate Infrastructure Levy across England.
Housing ministry chief planner Joanna Averley said the government will instead proceed “incredibly carefully” in bringing in any reforms, and that it was “very aware” of the “micro” nature of landscapes and housing markets in England.
Her comments, to an online event hosted by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), follow extensive criticisms that the government’s proposals to replace the system of developer contributions from Section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) with a new flat rate levy, risk stalling developments on brownfield sites and jeopardising the delivery of affordable housing.
Averley said developers had also sent a very strong message to government that they valued the direct link provided by Section 106 agreements between developments and the local communities in which they take place.
Despite the bold proposals outlined in last August’s planning white paper, Averley said the government was only “at the start of thinking through” how to reform the system of developer contributions, and that any system would take account of the unique circumstances of individual communities.
She said: “In changing any form of what is basically development taxation we need to do that incredibly carefully, we need to make sure that there aren’t consequences that aren’t anticipated.
“We are very aware, as people have said, the English landscape is very unique and very ‘micro’ in its character, and that goes for housing market and property values.
“You can have very distinct conditions within a matter of miles,” she added, promising these dynamics would be “thought through”.
She said “a lot of developers” had told the government the “connectedness of Section 106 and CIL to local community is something that they value”, and added that “we need to understand how that will be reflected in any new system”.
Critics of last summer’s proposals had suggested that proposals for a “flat rate” financial contribution by developers to local infrastructure would simply serve to make more marginal brownfield sites, or those with significant infrastructure requirements, unviable, pushing development on to green fields.
Consultant Roger Hepher, founder of HGH Consulting, said he now expected the government to ditch its “idealistic and inadequately thought-through” plans to reform developer contributions. He said the government was now more likely to amend the existing CIL regime. “This could be quite attractive from the industry’s point of view – CIL hasn’t been an unmitigated success, but at least it is accepted and generally understood,” he said.