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Jenrick: ‘Outdated’ planning system contributes to generational divide

Words: Laura Edgar
Robert Jenrick / Chris McAndrew

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick believes that England’s ‘outdated and cumbersome’ planning system has contributed to a ‘generational divide’ between those who own property and those who don’t.

Writing in The Telegraph, he says that half as many 16-to-34-year-olds own their own homes compared with people who are aged 35 to 64. 

The letter comes in advance of a planning policy paper, which the housing secretary says will be published this week. 

In the letter, Jenrick highlights that houses prices have risen since 2000, and suggests the “complicit and slow planning system has been a barrier to building homes that are affordable” in places people want to live. It has also resulted in delays to supporting infrastructure projects, he adds.

Local plans were intended to help councils and residents deliver homes but they “take on average seven years to agree in the form of lengthy and absurdly complex documents and accompanying policies” and then five years for a project to go through the planning system. 

To address this, Jenrick says “radical and necessary reforms” to the planning system will be set out this week to not only “get Britain building” but that would also drive the economic recovery from Covid-19.

The system will be people-focused, and through “democratic local agreement” land will be designated under one of three categories – for growth, for renewal, which would inclide permission in principle, or for protection.

“Our reforms seek a more diverse and competitive housing industry, in which smaller builders can thrive alongside the big players and where planning permissions are turned into homes faster than they are today,” he explains. “Creating a new planning system isn’t a task we undertake lightly, but it is both an overdue and a timely reform.” 

He insists that the government is cutting red tape but not standards. “We will be driven by outcomes, not process.”

The planning system would place a “higher regard” on quality and design and draw on “the idea of design codes and pattern books that built Bath, Belgravia and Bournville”.

Jenrick also says the reforms would take the planning system away from notices on lamp posts to “an interactive, and accessible, map-based online system”.

Read the full letter here on The Telegraph website (subscription).

Image credit | Chris McAndrew