The Housing Secretary labelled it “radical and necessary”, others branded it an overhaul, but there should be no doubt that not only the planning White Paper a significant step towards a quicker planning system, it is also the Government working to achieve and showcase their wider domestic agendas of levelling up, decarbonising the housing sector to achieve Net Zero by 2050 and pushing both central and local Government into a digital age.
We’ve analysed the top 5 ways the White Paper builds on the Government’s agenda:
1. Speeding up the planning system to create jobs and growth
With the housing market linked so closely to consumer spending, and with a swath of unemployment on the horizon due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that the proposed changes to the planning system look to deliver more homes, quicker and more efficiently, using modern methods of construction.
Getting more homes approved should mean the country sees more homes built which will not only create jobs within the construction sector, but will also help to keep the parties involved with the housing market, such as estate agents and conveying solicitors, in work. Helping the housing market continue to pick up from the impact of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic will also benefit the economy from an increase in confidence in consumer spending as well.
2. Another piece in the ‘levelling up’ agenda
The scrapping of Section 106 agreements and of the Community Infrastructure Levy, coupled with the creation of a new Infrastructure Levy, which will see greater contributions from developers towards both affordable housing and community infrastructure such as doctors’ surgeries, schools and roads, will certainly help the Government to fund more infrastructure, critical to the success of new areas of housing being built. This will help the Government in delivering their ‘infrastructure first’ commitment, pledged in the Conservative 2019 election manifesto.
An increase in infrastructure projects will aid the Government’s levelling up agenda by seeing more homes built with necessary accompanying infrastructure across the country. Further, many regions recently benefitted from the ‘Getting Building Fund’ which the Government channelled through Local Enterprise Partnerships, and there’s the Brownfield Land Fund and the West Midlands Brownfield Regeneration Fund too. This funding, coupled with speeding up the process by which regions can realise that funding in the shape of the planning system will really help the Government to showcase that the levelling up agenda is, and will remain, a top priority for Government.
3. Using the planning system to help hit the Net Zero 2050 target
The Government’s Net Zero by 2050 is one that many agree won’t be reached by just moving us all from our petrol cars into new electric vehicles; housing will play an important part in the decarbonisation agenda too. This new system will look to move local authority planning departments away from planning applications having ‘not net harm’ on environmental sustainability and energy efficiency to a ‘net gain’ scenario.
The Government wants to realise a Net Zero economy and a large part of this will not only be the retrofitting of existing stock but will also be creating long-term jobs in the housing sector that help the Government realise their ambitious target. Pushing new housing to have a ‘net gain’ impact on energy efficiency and environmental sustainability is a large part of the Government achieving this target.
4. Continuing the Government’s push towards a truly digital era
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay MP, focussed his recent first policy speech on data and digital, commenting that he wanted the Treasury to become the ‘new radicals’, using data and digital to enhance how his department works, how it evaluates its work and how it makes future projects run more efficiently. Pushing planning applications consultations online has been a silver lining within MHCLG to the black cloud of Covid-19. These proposed changes go several steps further in the White Paper, making the use of digital by local authorities not just a ‘nice to have’ but mandatory. This move to digital will not only help in improving the transparency of the planning system, with more people able to see what’s being planned in their areas, but will also help with creating new digital jobs within local authorities, with digital consultations bringing an improved ability for local authorities to evaluate their consultations with local communities.
5. Delivering on the Conservative 2019 election manifesto
The Conservative 2019 election manifesto pledged to deliver 300,000 homes per year by the mid-2020s, using modern methods of construction, frontloading infrastructure so it gets delivered before housing developments, supporting community housing and self-build projects, creating environmentally-friendly homes, all whilst protecting the Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
In one White Paper, the Government can clearly signpost their work to deliver on almost all of their housing pledges within their manifesto, harking back to the Prime Minister accepting that many voters ‘lent’ the Conservatives their vote in the 2019 December election and that the Government would have to work hard to deliver for the country if it were to retain those voters in future.
To discuss in more detail, please email Oliver Hazell.