In this guest blog, my colleagues Jen Ashwell and Emily Kell-Rowan discuss the Autumn Statement 2022.

Following a turbulent few months, the morning of 17 November 2022 saw the publication of the Autumn Statement 2022. The budgetary measures were the topic of debate up and down the country and the Planning, Energy and Infrastructure sectors anticipated a reconsidered approach to the Mini-Budget of 23 September 2022.

The Autumn Statement seeks to reform the planning system and enhance the opportunity for economic growth through the delivery of infrastructure that will open opportunities for work and development across the UK. The headlines are:

  • A £600 billion public investment in infrastructure over the next five years;
  • Planning reforms to accelerate the delivery of infrastructure across sectors – including updates to the National Policy Statements for transport, energy and water resources during 2023;
  • Commitment to the UK’s net zero by 2050 target through the delivery of railways and nuclear energy;
  • A “refocus” of Investment Zones; and
  • An assurance of the government’s commitment to levelling up the UK with the second round of the Levelling Up Fund being allocated at least £1.7 billion to priority local infrastructure projects.

The key takeaways above are certainly welcome in the planning sector given the movement this could encourage in bringing developments forward both at the application and construction stages. There is also clear gearing towards net zero and the development of Sizewell C (subject to final agreement), East West Rail, Northern Powerhouse Rail and High Speed 2 to Manchester presents a great opportunity to engage with this shift. However, a firm commitment to bring forward the renewable energy developments required to meet the Government’s net zero targets, as well as the windfall tax directed towards renewable energy developers, does bring into question how serious this Government is about tackling climate change.

Investments Zones are being “re-focused” to concentrate on a limited number of the highest potential knowledge-intensive growth clusters, meaning that any previous expressions of interest are not being taken forwards.

As regards the Levelling Up Fund, further details are awaited as to how this will be distributed across England and what the uptake of the increased availability of devolved powers will be, with the Government promoting the concept of devolved mayors. Nonetheless, an influx of £1.7 billion towards the delivery of priority local infrastructure projects is welcome.

It will be interesting to see how the government progresses revisions of the National Policy Statements (NPSs) in light of its latest commitment. Those familiar with the planning system will be well aware that some of these NPSs are now rather outdated, and the suite of Energy NPSs has been “under review” for some 14 months and counting and so progress on these reviews will be welcomed.

We eagerly await to see the impacts of the Autumn Statement in practice, but it is certainly looking to be an eventful year!