This is not the first Budget in recent years that refers to streamlining the planning system. Much of this is old news – a move to a more zonal approach simply refers to the permission in principle system passing through Parliament in the Housing and Planning Bill. Doubt remains as to the extent to which that approach can in practice speed up development on anything other than small sites. On local plan delivery, further details of the government’s proposed measures are only expected later this year.
On a more positive note, the government is proposing to review the use of planning conditions. New legislation to ensure that pre-commencement conditions can only be used with the agreement of the developer will be controversial with authorities but popular with developers. The process of deemed discharge for conditions, only recently introduced and little used in practice, is already to be reviewed. Further, three month statutory deadlines for Secretary of State decisions on called in applications and recovered appeals will be welcomed.
Government support for brownfield development continues. The spotlight turns to collaboration between government and local authorities and between the HCA, Network Rail and local authorities. Interestingly, it is suggested that powers to encourage ‘building up’ might be delivered through devolution and the city regions. Unsurprisingly, the only mention of the green belt is a reiteration of the government’s commitment to protect it.
However, there is support for greenfield development beyond the green belt. Many developers and authorities will welcome the news of further reforms to compulsory purchase to make the process quicker and fairer and assist in the creation of garden towns. ‘Technical and financial’ support is to be offered to bring forward garden villages and market towns of between 1,500 to 10,000 homes. We await with interest to see what planning and financial ‘flexibilities’ the government have in mind to offer to local authorities to encourage such new settlements.