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Column 16th June 2021

Laws to modernise the planning system so that more homes can be built?

It’s now about a month since the Queen’s Speech and the dust is beginning to settle.

The Speech set out the legislation that the government intends to pass during the next year and the programme includes a planning bill.

The Queen said that “Laws to modernise the planning system, so that more homes can be built, will be brought forward”.

The Briefing Paper issued to accompany the speech states that the Planning Bill will “create a simpler, faster and more modern planning system to replace the current one that dates back to 1947, and ensuring we no longer remain tied to procedures designed for the last century.

I remember when Rt Hon Greg Clark MP (then Minister for Planning) announced the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012.

He said that the NPPF would make “planning much simpler and more accessible, reducing over a thousand pages of often impenetrable jargon into around 50 pages of clearly written guidance”

Since then the NPPF has expanded to 76 pages and is supported by 60 separate guidance notes and over 50 letters to the chief planning officers as well as all the associated planning case law.

I don’t see how a planning system can avoid remaining “tied to procedures designed for the last century.”

We have a legal system which enables parliament to continually update its own Bills and clarify/amend policy through case law and this will continue so the planning system will continue to be a complicated process.

The Briefing Paper goes on to say that the Bill will make the approval of local plans simpler.

It explains that this is required because “Adopted Local Plans, where they are in place, provide for 192,725 homes per year across England (as of March 2021) – significantly below our ambition for 300,000 new homes annually.”

Yet over a million homes currently have planning consent and are not being built.

Developers have consistently increased the number of approvals they hold since the NPPF was first published.

They sit on these “land banks” until the market price of the homes will provide the right profit margin.

Why don’t the government understand the simple fact that house prices won’t go down as long as developers want to make profits?

Is it because many MPs have connections with the construction industry?

Or is it because of the large number of donations paid to the political parties by housing developers and other parts of the construction industry?


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