Government proposes a ‘whole new planning system for England’ in White Paper published for consultation, alongside interim reforms

Government proposes a ‘whole new planning system for England’ in White Paper published for consultation, alongside interim reforms

On 6 August 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government published its long-awaited ‘Planning for the Future’ White Paper, setting out far-reaching proposals for reform to the English planning system. Alongside it, it published a second consultation on interim changes to the planning system, pending the outcome of the White Paper reforms.

The White Paper proposes reforms that touch on almost all aspects of the planning regime, which, among other things, propose:

  • reforming the role of local plans, so that they focus on identifying land under just three categories: growth areas suitable for substantial development (where outline approval for development would be automatically secured for forms and types of development specified in the plan), renewal areas suitable for some development, such as gentle densification, and protected areas where development is restricted. Plans will also be visual and map-based, standardised and based on the latest digital technology
  • setting general development management policies nationally, so that local plans will simply identify site and area-specific requirements, accompanied by locally-produced design codes
  • changing the development management process, so that outline planning permission is automatically granted for development in areas identified as growth areas in the new local plans. Further details will have to be agreed and full permission achieved through streamlined and faster consent routes which focus on securing good design and addressing site-specific technical issues
  • encouraging more beautiful design, in part by developing design guidance and codes which are to be prepared locally with community involvement and also by changing national policy and legislation to incentivise and accelerate high quality development
  • making local planning authorities (LPAs) and the Planning Inspectorate subject to strict statutory timescales for decisions. This will be achieved partly by the greater digitalisation of the application process and the introduction of new software to automate routine processes such as knowing whether applications conform with the local plan, and also by reducing the information that must be submitted with an application
  • reforming the regimes for environmental assessment to speed up the process and make the requirements simpler
  • putting greater emphasis on building out planning permissions
  • consolidating the current system of planning obligations and Community Infrastructure Levy under a reformed ‘Infrastructure Levy’, to be charged as a fixed proportion of the development value above a threshold, with a mandatory nationally-set rate or rates and the current system of planning obligations abolished. Infrastructure Levy would also apply to changes of use through permitted development rights
  • developing a comprehensive resources and skills strategy for the planning sector to support the implementation of these reforms

See News Analysis: Planning White Paper published for consultation proposes ‘a whole new planning system for England’.

Alongside the White Paper, the government also published a consultation on changes to the current planning system, setting out some shorter-term measures which the government hopes will improve the effectiveness of the current system. This consultation proposes:

  1. making changes to the standard method for assessing local housing need
  2. ensuring First Homes, a new affordable housing product, will be required to be delivered through developer contributions
  3. lifting the small sites threshold from 10 units to 40 or 50 units
  4. extending the permission in principle on application regime to major development

See News Analysis: Government consults on interim changes to planning system in England pending outcome of White Paper reforms.

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About the author:
Sarah worked in planning departments at several city firms, including SJ Berwin, Wragge Lawrence Graham and Norton Rose Fulbright, before joining LexisNexis UK in January 2017. She has experience of planning and compulsory purchase law and regularly advised landowners, investors and developers on all planning law aspects, with a particular focus on large-scale development, regeneration and infrastructure schemes. Sarah also has considerable experience conducting planning-related legal proceedings.