Planning reform — helping build Britain’s future

The Government has announced a major planning reform — a shakeup that is long overdue. Out of date planning regulations have not been reformed in the UK since the Second World War, with successive governments instead opting to alter the existing system. This has led to a process that is plagued by inefficiency and, given the current housing demands, is unfit for purpose. These proposed reforms will give the property sector a renewed sense of purpose as we begin to get the economy moving after Covid-19.

The existing system, in which councils vet planning applications on a case by case basis, will be overhauled, replaced with a three-tiered zonal system. Councils will be given the power to divide up land into three sections: “growth”, “renewal”, and “protected”. Under the plans, growth areas will be earmarked for big development project. If these developments are based on pre-approved design codes, they will automatically receive approval, cutting out years of red-tape from planning oversight. Renewal areas will see “gentle densification”, adding more homes to existing residential areas. Finally, protection of green belt land and areas of outstanding natural beauty will be bolstered.

The widespread reform aims to go further than any government has gone for decades by removing the time consuming and inefficient planning process. The Government said that it would require local planning applications to be developed and agreed in 30 months, a significant reduction from the current average of five years.

This is a welcome move for the property sector. The existing planning system was entirely unfit for purpose. As well as the painstaking and time-consuming process it took to get approval, the appeal process exposed extreme levels of bureaucracy within local councils. Under the old system, applications that were rejected the first time around for minor infractions would subsequently be passed six months later. Indeed, a third of applications went through on appeal after a refusal. Reform was essential.

The new regulations will enable the Government to finally realise its ambition to build more houses, something that previous reforms have manifestly failed to do. Government targets for new houses have consistently been missed, an appalling record that has blighted the UK’s property sector for years.

Along with the recent extension to permitted development right (PDR), that enables existing residential flats to be expanded by up to two floors, the planning reform demonstrates real intent by the Government to build beautiful houses in smart ways.

The removal of red tape will also help SME developers to bring new and exciting designs to local areas. The emphasis on developments that match the surrounding area demonstrates a connected thought process that realises local communities must be expanded whilst retaining their essential features. If the housing crisis is to be defeated once and for all, we must realise that innovation has to take precedence.

Of course, not everyone will be happy with this reform. However, the residential property sector has faced a crisis of missed targets for years. By building more properties, more people will be able to access houses in the long run.

For SME developers such as myself, this reform comes at a time where the removal of red tape is essential not only for the property sector, but for the country in general. Covid-19 has taken its toll on virtually every sector; it is important that the Government creates the right opportunities to stimulate jobs and investment to help the country back onto its feet.

Written by Israel Moskovitz,

“Planning reform — helping build Britain’s future” first appeared on my Medium profile.