Published — 23 September, 2020

White Paper on planning reforms

Thank you for contacting me regarding the newly announced planning reforms.

Our planning system needs to work for those who use it to make sure new homes, businesses and vital infrastructure are not held back by outdated, complicated and time-consuming bureaucracy.  It takes an average of five years for an application for residential development to go through the planning system before building can even begin.  This cannot be right for our communities who want homes to live in, places to work, and schools and hospitals built.

This is why I welcome that radical and necessary reforms are being brought in to cut arbitrary red tape while maintaining standards and protecting our Green Belt and greenfield sites.  Under the new proposals and through local democratic agreement, land will be designated under the categories of growth, renewal or protection.  Every area will also need to have a local plan in place for building more homes, helping local communities drive change and decide what gets built and where.  We know from our own experience how difficult this process was for Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) and whilst they were without a plan, a developer’s “free for all” ensued due to the presumption in favour of development.  That said, now that they have one I would not like to see HBC’s work wasted.  Where sound local policies are in place I would be less in favour of seeing them overridden by national direction.

Land designated for growth will allow new homes, schools, shops and hospitals to be permitted as long as they meet local design and quality standards.  Renewal areas will be provided with a ‘permission in principle’ approach subject to checks and balances with an emphasis on high quality that meets design standards.  Our heritage sites and green spaces will continue to be protected and preserved for the enjoyment of local communities and future generations, with development taking place on brownfield sites.

A new and simpler national levy will replace developer contributions, which are often the source of major delays, and allow more funds to be raised for social infrastructure to the benefit of communities.  The reforms will also make the construction sector more efficient, helping small and medium sized housebuilders compete with large developers.  I have also been assured that key workers, local people and first-time buyers will be front and centre in the First Homes scheme, which will provide a 30 per cent discount on the purchase of a home.

The White Paper also highlights the importance of local participation in planning.  Moving away from notices on lampposts to an interactive and accessible map-based online system with residents more engaged over what happens in their areas – using technology for transparency.

The consultation was really an opportunity for you to make your views clear to government.  Unfortunately, the consultation has now closed and the feedback is being analysed.  I hope you had the opportunity to be involved in the process.

It is encouraging that the new proposals will once again make our planning system work for our communities and create much needed new jobs in construction.  All new homes will need to be zero carbon ready, which will deliver on our net carbon zero commitment, improve on environmental and energy standards and avoid the need for retrofitting.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me.