New Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented his first Budget to Parliament on 11 March with much enthusiasm. The Chancellor’s speech served as an opportunity to trail infrastructure and planning announcements over the term of the coming Parliament.
Following the Budget Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick announce further planning reform in Parliament on 12 March. These reforms seek to streamline and modernise the planning system in order to make it more accessible and promote the housing development. Whilst we will have to wait until the Planning White Paper is published later this spring to know the full detail on the proposed changes, some of the significant reforms announced are:
- The government will be reviewing the formula to calculate housing need and encourage more building in, and around, transport hubs and brownfield land. To that end they have announced that a national brownfield sites map will be produced.
- The government has said it will hold local authorities accountable and has set a deadline of December 2023 to ensure all local plans are in place, otherwise the government will intervene.
- More planning technology will be utilised, with the introduction of a digital planning system. Planning fees will also be linked to the performance of planning departments.
- The government is exploring the possibility of zoning, a system used in other jurisdictions which creates clarity – and critically – speed in the development process.
- A new system to promote vacant building demolition to provide quality residential redevelopment
- An updated NPPF to promote good design and placemaking, as well as a fast track for beauty which builds on the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission’s report Living With Beauty, published in January.
- The establishment of four new development corporations in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc; and finally,
- Discouraging building in flood-prone areas.
The budget also announced significant investment in infrastructure, housing, the environment, and planning. A total of £76 billion is allocated for expenditure on housing, environment and transport for 2020-2021.
Here are six of the key points from the Budget 2020, below.
The government is investing in infrastructure, particularly strategic transport projects, to invest in the country’s rail and roads. A second Road Investment Strategy will allocate £27 billion between 2020 and 2025 to fund projects like the A66 Trans-Pennine, the A303, the A46 Newark bypass and building the Lower Thames Crossing.
At a local level, transport is also getting a boost. The Budget includes what was referred to as a ‘London-style funding package for transit’ - a £4.2 billion fund from 2022- 2023 for five year funding of eight Mayoral Combined Authorities. This fund is intended to allow mayors to put forward their own plans to serve their communities. This, alongside with the Potholes Fund at £500 million a year, the government hopes, will improve transit in combined authorities like Greater Manchester and the newly devolved West Yorkshire, but also improve connectivity to towns and more rural communities.
In light of the recent flooding, the government has doubled its funding for future flood and coastal defences from £2.6 billion to £5.2 billion over six years. On top of this they have pledged £200 million in funding over the next six years for a place-based resilience programme to provide further support to areas at risk.
Brownfield Land Fund
A new £400 million brownfield land fund for councils and combined authorities will provide further support to existing planning policies aimed at promoting development on brownfield sites.
Working Towards Carbon Reduction and Net Zero
The government has announced that it will establish a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Infrastructure Fund, with £800 million pledged to establish two CCS sites by 2030. The intention of the government is to build a forest that is greater in area than Birmingham in the next five years, as well as restore peatlands, and accordingly has allocated £640 million towards a nature for climate fund. The Chancellor ambitiously stated that the government’s intention is to be the first to leave the environment better off than they found it. Funding was also allocated to other means of carbon reduction through transport, for example, funding new electric vehicle charging stations.
Funding to Promote Housing
There will be a £10.9 billion increase in housing investment to support the government’s commitment to building at least a million new homes by the end of Parliament, averaging 300,000 per year by the mid 2020s. £1.1 billion from the Housing Infrastructure Fund is being allocated for nine different areas, including Manchester £650 million will be used to purchase 6000 new homes for rough sleepers. Interest is being cut by 1% on investment to provide affordable housing. More policy on how the government intends to simplify the planning system and promote housing delivery will follow in the Planning White Paper, set to be published this spring.