Jenryk Speech marks more pragmatic, cross-party and conciliatory tone on Planning Reform

Part of speech to LGA Annual Conference 6th July 2021

I highlight the key shifts in tone which we have advocated many times here.

First a return to (effectively) government regional offices.

We want every local council to produce a ten, or twenty-year plan for their town, their city or their communities and for government to work with you in a genuinely place-based way. For MHCLG to be your initial port of call, your partner, your champion within government. So, you are not simply working with us on housing, or local government and then the Department for Transport on transport and Education on education and skills and Health on health and equalities but together we take a place-based approach which will be able to yield the greatest results for you to lead that plan for the future of your area.

And on Planning Reform

New planning laws that offer the flexibility to deliver new mixed-use properties are critical to this vision and to meeting our government’s objective to build one million homes over the course of this parliament.

Certainly, every economic recovery in my lifetime – and far beyond – has always been led by housing and construction. Millions of jobs depend upon it.

That’s why housing and planning were central to the ambitious and comprehensive agenda that the Prime Minister set out for the whole country during the Queen’s Speech…

here’s still much more to do.

There’s no question, that the past year has been much harder for people stuck in smaller, substandard homes – or without a home at all – making our mission to address long-standing issues around affordability and delivering homes that meet people’s needs all the more urgent.

That includes the need to reverse the decline in home ownership, which is still out of reach for far too many people.

The property-owning democracy is one of the foundations of our country.

This should go beyond party politics. It is hard to believe that there are still people questioning the need for house building. Arguing in one form or another directly or otherwise that there isn’t a serious shortage of decent housing in this country.

Despite all the polls showing that the vast majority of people in this country aspire to own their home, by the age of 30 those born between 1981 and 2000 are half as likely to be homeowners as those born between 1946 and 1965.

We shouldn’t accept that home ownership should be reserved only for the lucky few. Those born into privilege or born within a previous generation.

I hope we can be serious about bridging this divide and we can do this as far as possible across the party political divide...

I know that councils can do more and want to do more not just in this regard, but to build the homes your communities need and deserve.

That takes us back to the topic of the planning system and how we can ensure sensible and pragmatic reforms that enable the planning system to be modernised and brought into the 21st Century. I don’t think we need to rip up the planning system and start again. I think we need to improve the planning system and I hope we can work together across the party political divide to ensure that a system that is sometimes slow and bureaucratic with poor outcomes and a low level of public trust can be improved for everyone’s benefit.

The planning system reforms announced in the Queen’s Speech aim to do just that, through a simpler, faster, digital, more predictable system that delivers homes, infrastructure like schools, hospitals, roads and Freeports and ensures the planning system is fundamentally modernised to take account of our commitment to Net Zero and the environment.

Let me be clear, the proposals we will bring forward later in the year will be council led. They will also be plan led; in fact the will emphasis plans more than ever before. They will require up to date plans for every local authority because that at the of the day is the foundation of a plan-based system.

It will be for councils to determine how to provide the homes their areas need, with communities having a greater voice from the very start of the planning process.

Our reforms will provide greater certainty over what development is permitted – and where – through clear land allocations in local plans.

They will also say where they don’t want to see house built and what we as communities want to protect including precious green spaces, the green belt, national parks, areas of outstanding national beauty and SSIs.

They will provide greater clarity; replacing complex and quite opaque Section 106 agreements with much more predictable, transparent levies which will be locally set, locally levied which greater flexibility for your as councils to determine how they are spend. That will ensure that more land value uplift is captured for public good, ensuring you as councils have greater revenue to fund more affordable and social housing.

The other litmus test will be if they top the balance in the favour of the small builder and local entrepreneur. The current planning system, although I am sure it is not the favourite system of the big volume housebuilder, nonetheless is one that they know how to navigate. They do so. We want a system which will enable small builders and new entrants to navigate with confidence, creating a far more diverse and competitive housing and construction industry.

And our reforms will make the planning system more accessible through digital plan-making; ensuring more local people – more than the 1% who currently engage with plan making – can get involved.

Local people can see what’s happening in their area and have their say at the swipe of a smart phone, reconnecting them to a planning system that serves them.

In all, we’re taking power out of the hands of the big developers. We’re ensuring that there are fewer lawyers and consultants involved in the planning system and giving it back to local communities, to small builders and to democratically elected local councillors. .

We will also consider new ways of ensuring that sites build out as expected. Something that drives a great deal of public mistrust and frustration with the current planning system. And which through my many conversations with councils and councillors, I know is a serious area of concern for you.

In addition, our reforms will empower local people to set standards for beauty and design in their area through local design codes reflecting their area’s unique aesthetics, culture and heritage, with tree lined streets accompanying new developments.

An approach – reinforced by changes we intend to make to the National Planning Policy Framework – that will put beauty, for the very first time, at the heart of the planning system.

And we are now establishing the Office for Place, led by Nicholas Boys Smith, who worked with Sir Roger Scruton on the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission which aims to help local authorities across the country create user-friendly, effective design codes for their communities.

We’ve announced the 14 councils who will test this new approach and will bring forward further pilots over the course of the summer to ensure councils are ready to do this at scale when the new revised planning system comes into play. So that those design codes and masterplans are not unusual, inspired outliers or the things that you see in particularly impressive local estates like the Duchy of Cornwall, but something that is ubiquitous and present in all of our daily lives.

In short, our aim is to give councillors control over what to build where; replacing jargon-laden and technical documents running to thousands of pages with readily-understandable, easy to navigate, succinct assessments; creating the design codes and masterplans reflecting the genuine preferences of the community and extending participation to anyone with a smartphone.

This is about creating beautiful homes and neighbourhoods that instil (sic) pride and that are built to last.

It’s about empowering local communities to shape their future in real, practical, ways.

It’s about returning planning and planners to the social and moral mission that it originally aspired to be.

Something I hope we can all sign up to.

Compare the line ‘

I don’t think we need to rip up the planning system and start again.

With Boris with the forward to the White Paper

tear it down and start again….That is what this paper proposes….a whole new planning system for England.

I do wish Jenryk learned how to use an apostrophe.

Many of the key White paper proposals are there in the speech, apart from the silly proposal to abolish any semblance of strategic planning. The key components are there even zoning, but softer language is used,

Our reforms will provide greater certainty over what development is permitted – and where – through clear land allocations in local plans.‘ how else could the later references to enabling masterplanning and design codes in local plans make sense, or more competition from new entrants and SMEs. The reference to SMEs was weak referring only to navigation of system rather than getting more plots from a zoning and subdivision based system, but the latter point is very hard to make in a short speech.

So AT LAST the kind of pragmatic reform we have advocated here is being delivered, and hopefully on the model we have advocated here. Lets hope the two extra months to craft a response – hopefully a real white paper (not the green paper equivalent we got) and a draft bill in Sept. and a full bill in January.

On final thing just who was it who was advocating this more cross party pragmatic approach to reform, with a road map of how to do so.

Only here. The response of the vast majority of the planning profession, and pressure groups was ‘duh…how will this work’. Only by understanding of how different planning systems work can any progress be made.

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