The Chancellor today (Friday 23 September) unveiled his Growth Plan, described as a mini Budget to "release the huge potential in the British economy by tackling high energy costs and inflation and delivering higher productivity and wages."
A factsheet is already available on the government website. The Government is in discussions with 38 local authorities, which are "keen to be involved" to establish “investment zones” in England. It is proposed to hold similar discussions with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland "if they are willing". The media was already talking about this last weekend.
The proposed local investment zones can be seen as hyper-freeports, eclipsing those announced by the previous administration in terms of deregulation. This is particularly the case for planning policy, with the zones subject to bespoke regulations and potentially scaling back environmental protections, Section 106 agreements and infrastructure levies.
Accelerated development – there will be designated development sites to both release more land for housing and commercial development, and to support accelerated development. The need for planning applications will be minimised and where planning applications remain necessary, they will be radically streamlined.
Changing planning policy can act as a lever for development. However, it’s critical that we avoid becoming tunnel-visioned in the pursuit of economic growth; ensuring that deregulation does not impact the environment and balances the delivery of much-needed market rate and affordable housing with the related required infrastructure.
Government funding will be used to fill the void left by reducing developer contributions in these zones. The success of this system hinges on often under-resourced local planning authorities being not only able to demonstrate what they would have asked a developer to finance, but also obtain funding from a new government stream and deliver projects in a timely fashion to mitigate the impact of development.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration [and] Planning Bill
The confirmation that a bill is set to be brought forward to ‘unpick’ the wider planning system may signal the end of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and its planning proposals. As Jon Easton notes on Twitter - the committee stage for that looks set to be delayed.
The Chesham and Amersham by-election result may have made that approach to de-regulation unpalatable; which remains the political lens through which further reform must be viewed.
All of this was boldly set against the premise of unleashing the power of the private sector. My plea remains - that the government do not forget the role the public sector has to play in progress. It is rarely the level of regulation which slows things down, but the level of resources held by their public sector counterparts. Mr Kwarteng makes a nice soundbite when referring to unleashing the power of the private sector, but I would urge him to not forget to empower the public sector at the same time.
** The devils in the detail
If only to urge Jon Easton to take a sip of something, it would be remiss of me not to point out that the devil is in the detail and even the draft agreements for the Investment Zones alluded to in the The Times at the weekend are not yet publicly available.
Changing planning policy can act as a lever for development.
However, it’s critical that we avoid becoming tunnel-visioned in the pursuit of economic growth