FT New Planning Bill in Queens Speech to Introduce Zoning – But They Still Don’t Understand How Zoning Legally Works @joannaaverley


Among the measures will be legislation intended to boost economic growth and narrow regional inequalities — Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda — including a planning bill to clear obstacles to housebuilding and broader development. Under the bill, all councils in England will have to designate land either for development or preservation, as the government aims to hit a national target of building more than 300,000 homes a year.

Note it says ‘development or zoning’ as our response to the White paper indicated ‘Regeneration’ a third category was legally unnecessary, its a metric of existing land use what it could be developed for. They still retain the naive and ill-informed Policy Exchange view of zoning – sigh dumbtanks be rid of them.

A small point, but it would be much better if there were two clauses, a statutory duty to zone for development and a statutory duty to zone for protection, rather than one for ‘development or protection’. That is because under a zoning regime you need a enabling power to grant ‘as of right’ development powers to a zoning map and scheme. However ‘protection’ covers a different function, it restricts development but rarely bans it. For example flood risk zones. For that reason Green Belts, Nature Areas, Hazard Areas, Historic Conservation Areas etc. etc. are always designated as ‘overlay’ zones, zones which overlay zonings on a map and add additional controls. So you could have for example have b brownfield site in a conservation area or Green Belt, and certain activities could be allowed in a woodland.

The second reason is zoning can never be comprehensive and zoning every last inch of land for either development or protection. Zoning zones the land you need for development. Protects the land you need to protect, and then other land is ‘white land’ where conventional development management consents apply. This is how it applies in most rural areas in Germany for example. Attempts to zone everything in rural areas, as New Zealand for example, have been widely judged as a diversion of effort from providing enough land for housing.