The biggest shake-up of planning laws for 70 years is set to be abandoned after a backlash from voters and Tory MPs in southern England.Reforms designed to help ministers hit a target of 300,000 new homes annually by the middle of the decade will be watered down, The Times understands.
The government had intended to rip up the planning application process and replace it with a zonal system, stripping homeowners of their rights to object to new houses. It said that councils would also be given mandatory housebuilding targets.Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, will announce a more limited set of changes.
Tory MPs blamed the planning overhaul for their party’s shock defeat by the Liberal Democrats at the Chesham & Amersham by-election in June.The need for wholesale reform has been questioned after developers set records for housebuilding. Almost 244,000 homes were built in 2019-20, the highest number since the late 1980s, and developers appear to have coped well with the pandemic. In the first three months of this year construction began on 46,010 dwellings, an increase of a third on the same period last year and the highest number of quarterly starts for 14 years. There are more than 1.1 million homes with planning permission waiting to be built, analysis by the Local Government Association has found.
Ministers are expected to abandon their intention to make housebuilding targets mandatory. The zonal system proposed last year is also likely to be dropped — although councils could be asked to designate “growth sites” where there is a presumption in favour of development and planning applications will be fast-tracked.
..”The backbenchers are likely to seek more concessions. Bob Seely, a leading rebel, said: “Communities . . . have a right to demand to be listened to without being shouted down by the Westminster elite as so-called nimbys.”The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We will not comment on speculation. Our response to the consultation will be released in due course.”
We have long argued that wholesale and universal zoning is not needed, and indeed applies nowhere in Europe, and was only really most strongly needed to enable large growth sites- so it seems that this is the path they are going down. What is worrying is SPDS spinning the need for large scale housing growth has gone away – what completions are likley to collapse in 21-23 because of labour abd supply chain problems. The litmus test will be whether any ‘as of right’ development proposals remain. If they dont it will be yet more unproductive tinkering and not reform.