What are the likely effects of the Referendum decision on planning? The real answer is that nobody knows but planning partner Stephen Ashworth gives his views:
- There will be more devolution to city regions across the UK. There is clearly a distrust of Westminster and “experts”. Expect to see devolution being set in more of a sub-regional framework.
- Although there will be delays, the further drop in interest rates and the need for investment will mean more emphasis on new infrastructure. Now is the time for city regions within the UK to refine their infrastructure plans, making sure that they fit comfortably within the National Infrastructure Commission ambitions.
- More of the investment will be outside London. London has succeeded in part because of the staggering levels of infrastructure investment that have been made. Other regions deserve their turn.
- The UK planning system will not change. There is no “European” element that can be stripped out. Much that is blamed on Europe is, in fact, common sense and best practice around the world. For example, does anyone seriously anticipate that the UK will not environmentally assess plans for large-scale development proposals? Similarly, the UK already has international and national commitments on climate change. Expect no change.
- There will be some siren calls to put the brakes on housing delivery. It will be argued that, with lower levels of immigration, objectively assessed needs will fall. In reality, immigration is unlikely to fall significantly or soon. In fact figures from the UK's Department for Communities and Local Government already assume a material reduction. And, if successful in reducing immigration, the likelihood is that there will be a need to accommodate some of the British citizens presently living in Europe. Expect no change.
Perhaps the greatest effect will be that Parliamentary time will focus on managing the crisis and broader constitutional issues. Hopefully, that means that there will be less time for planning reform and the UK can move calmly to a proper plan-led system of the type envisaged by the Local Plan Expert Group. This should be supported by a slightly simplified Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) regime after the CIL Review with a less febrile property market and one better balanced around the country.