Faster planning processes must prioritise infrastructure

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Rt. Hon Michael Gove, MP, has announced the publication of a new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) today, 19 December 2023. Reaffirming the UK Government’s commitment to building homes across England, he promised to take action against councils that miss deadlines to submit their housing plans.

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Gove signalled this was the next stage in the UK Government’s long-term plan for housing, which he previously described in a speech in July 2023. The NPPF has been revised in response to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill: reforms to national planning policy consultation and sets out the UK Government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied.

A renewed focus on councils having local plans and more pressure to deliver much needed new homes for people to rent and buy will be welcomed by Propertymark members up and down the country. However, often local plans don’t deliver for existing residents and fail to deliver improved transport links, schools and medical centres as well as focus enough on building housing for an ageing population and homes that are net zero.

An infrastructure first approach is needed, alongside providing more resources to local authorities, to deliver the UK Government’s reforms and build homes that the country desperately needs and communities where people want to live and work.

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Timothy Douglas Head of Policy and Campaigns | Propertymark

Local authorities get more freedom with more accountability

Despite house building targets being relaxed there will be an expectation that every local authority will have up-to-date 5-year plans in place. Councils will have the freedom to set far lower targets than suggested by the standard population-based formula if they can show that meeting it would change the character of an area or cause environmental harm

League tables will be published to call out authorities that fail to submit their future development plans and the Secretary of State said he will intervene if necessary.

Rooting out delays and blockages in planning system 

New laws came into force on 26 October 2023 to speed up the planning system, hold developers to account, cut bureaucracy, and encourage more councils to put in place plans to enable the building of new homes. 

The Planning Skills Delivery Fund will provide £24 million over two years to help local authorities implement the reforms in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023. The funds will be allocated to help clear backlogs of planning applications and address planning skills gaps. In the recent Autumn Statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, MP,  pledged to invest more than £110 million to construct more than 40,000 new homes and increase supply by the end of 2024, and an additional £32 million to erase planning backlogs in places such as Cambridge, London and Leeds.  

Gove also announced a rapid three month review of the statutory consultee system - the list of bodies which must be consulted on planning applications in prescribed circumstances, such as the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Oil and Gas Authority. This review will consider if the right bodies are on the list and if it is appropriate to allow developments to be approved if a response is not received in a set time frame.  

Urban development will help preserve the green belt

Gove stated that by targeting the creation of new homes in the heart of cities where people want to live and work, the impact on green belt land can be kept to a minimum. He also argued that popular support for development would be much higher if development did not come at environmental or aesthetic cost. 

The £180 million Brownfield Land Release Fund 2 started in July 2022, and its intention is to help bring neglected urban areas back into use, assist regeneration projects and support local economies. The full brownfield fund aims to deliver more than 17,600 new homes and 56,000 skilled new jobs over the next four years.

Read a transcript of Michael Gove's speech  →