The Chancellor presented the 2016 Budget to Parliament on Wednesday 16 March. With a forward-thinking, aspirational outlook, it is headlined as: “A Budget that puts the next generation first. In uncertain times and against a deteriorating global economic outlook, this Budget delivers security for working people. It takes the next bold steps in the government’s long-term economic plan. It reduces the deficit, achieves a surplus and makes the reforms needed so Britain is fit for the future”. Walker Morris’ Planning & Environment team consider the changes announced that will impact the planning and development sector.

New penalties proposed for missed local plan

A report compiled by the Local Plans Expert Group was published alongside the 2016 Budget. The panel had previously been convened by the government to consider ways for streamlining the local plan process. In the report it has now recommended that local planning authorities should face “additional consequences” if they have failed to produce a local plan by early 2017. The government will now to consult on the panel’s recommendations until 27 April. It is also to consider altering the weight that should be given to outdated plans in decision-making going forward.

Encouragement for garden cities, towns and villages

The government is to legislate to “make it easier for local authorities to work together to create new garden towns”. In addition, the 2016 Budget has said that areas wishing to establish smaller settlements (i.e. garden villages and market towns of 1,500-10,000 homes) will receive “technical and financial support”. A briefing document has simultaneously been published. This notes the government’s commitment to “legislating to update the New Towns Act 1981 to ensure there is a fit for purpose vehicle” to enable delivery of new garden towns and villages. Also of interest is the promise to work with councils in identifying and delivering “planning freedoms to support housing growth including, for example, ensuring that there is greater ability to resist speculative residential planning applications, and to continue protecting the green belt”. However, it seems this will only be in exchange for guaranteed housing delivery from the relevant councils.

Deadline for Secretary of State decisions

The government will set a statutory three-month deadline for decisions by the Secretary of State on called-in applications and recovered appeals. The intention is that this will “prevent time-delays on decisions on infrastructure, housing and regeneration projects”, particularly those seen as key to boosting the economy.

Minimising delays due to planning conditions

New legislation is proposed to ensure that planning conditions which impose obligations pre-commencement of development will only be used with the agreement of the developing parties. The 2016 Budget document also notes the government intends to review the process of deemed discharge for conditions, “to ensure it is effective and its use maximised”.

Upwards extensions encouraged

The 2016 Budget includes an announcement that city-regions outside London could soon benefit from changes making easier for developers to add upward extensions to properties. This comes following the previous consultation on ‘building up’ in London, with the intention that there will now be further consultation on the powers being rolled-out as part of the city-region devolution measures. It is hoped these changes will help increase densities on brownfield land and reduce the need to ‘build out’.

Further compulsory purchase reforms

The government will consult on a secondary set of Compulsory Purchase Order reforms. The objective is to make the compulsory purchase process “clearer, fairer and quicker”.

Boost for national infrastructure

The government has announced it will sanction the High Speed 3 rail-link between Leeds and Manchester, accelerate the upgrade of the M62 to a four-lane ‘smart’ motorway, and develop future east-west road improvements in the North. In addition, London’s Crossrail 2 project is to proceed to the next stage. As part of the 2016 Budget provisions, a government contribution of £80 million will be made to fund its development. The National Infrastructure Commission is to carry on its work, but particularly now highlighting opportunities and developing proposals “for unlocking growth, housing and jobs in the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor”.