George Osborne’s budget announcement on 18 March 2015 included a number of interesting planning announcements, largely building on the Government’s recent theme of streamlining the consenting process as a means of encouraging development to come forward. 

In London, the most significant planning announcements relate to the delivery of housing; nationwide, the most significant planning announcement relates to the streamlining of the compulsory purchase process.

London - Housing

The Government has announced plans to devolve more planning power to the Mayor of London. These powers will relate to wharves and sightlines, and the Government’s aim in devolving these powers to the Mayor of London is the acceleration of the provision of new homes and a reduction in planning delays. The Budget confirms that there will be full consultation on these proposals. 

The devolution of planning powers over wharves will release those wharves from safeguarding by Whitehall regulations and enable the Mayor to take forward new developments for new homes and commercial use. The nine wharves that are proposed for release are: in Bexley - Mulberry Wharf, Railway Wharf and Town Wharf; in Newham - Priors Wharf, Mayer Parry Wharf and Sunshine Wharf; in Barking and Dagenham - Welbeck Wharf and DePass Wharf; and in Havering - Phoenix Wharf. 

The Government has also announced that £1 million in funding will be provided to the London Land Commission (LLC). The LLC was recently established, with its function being to undertake a comprehensive mapping exercise in relation to public sector brownfield land in London. The Government’s plan is that the brownfield land that the LLC identifies will be used for housing in London, in order to meet the Government’s target of 400,000 new homes by 2025. 

These proposals are the latest in a string of measures aimed at supporting house building in London, and follow hot on the heels of the recent announcement of nine housing zones within London and the introduction of Mayoral Development Orders under the Infrastructure Act 2015. 

These announcements also build on announcements made in February 2015, when the Long-Term Economic Plan for London was announced. In that plan, housing was recognised as the number one problem facing London. 

The Government has also: reiterated its support for unlocking development potential at Barking Riverside where it is hoped that 11,000 homes can be delivered; announced that £97 million funding will be provided to support the regeneration of Brent Cross where it is hoped that 7,500 homes can be delivered; and announced that £7 million will be provided to the GLA to support the development of the Croydon Growth Zone where it is hoped that 4,000 homes can be delivered.

Nationwide – Compulsory Purchase

The Budget also saw the Government announce a consultation on amendments to the compulsory purchase regime, with the aim of making it clearer, faster and fairer in order to support the development of brownfield land. In parallel with the Budget, that consultation has been launched. 

The consultation, “Improving the Compulsory Purchase Process”, was launched on 18 March and will run until 9 June 2015.