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04/12/2014

Measures to speed up planning process announced

Words: Laura Edgar
Housing / iStock

The property and housing industries have welcomed measures announced in the Autumn Statement to speed up the planning process.

Published as part of the Autumn Statement, the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) aims to speed up the delivery of housing and infrastructure across the UK.

The measures include a consultation at the Budget 2015 on Compulsory Purchase Reforms that aim “to make processes clearer, faster and fairer” as well as to bring forward more brownfield land for redevelopment.

Further to this, the government plans to take steps to speed up section 106 agreements to reduce the delays in the planning process and they will monitor the speed of major decisions.

The RTPI has said however, that while revised guidance on section 106 agreements are welcome, “the process is one of negotiation and local authorities should not be disadvantaged in ensuring proper accommodating works for new planning consents.” The system, they added, also relies on more than just speed and “it would be helpful if the monitoring system acknowledged the need for quality” as well. They concluded: “We welcome in principle the new package of planning measures but will need to see the detail of what is proposed. We are ready and willing to work with all parties to ensure planning teams are properly resourced to achieve sustainable growth.”

Similarly, Bhavash Vashi, director at Barton Willmore's Reading office, said: "Keeping a check on the speed of decision-making is a good thing, but what is more important is ensuring that the right decisions are made which help deliver development on the ground. The industry does not need to return to a scenario where the speed of decision making is directly linked to sources of funding."

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) explained that if successful, the measures would particularly help small builders who lack the financial capacity and resources of larger, volume house builders and have been disproportionally penalised by the delays and cost of the current system.

Executive chairman at the HBF Stewart Baseley said: “Measures to speed up the planning process are positive and what the industry has been calling for. We need a system that is responsive to current housing needs and not one that acts as a constraint. The current system is too slow, overly complex and costly. Such improvements can only help get more sites started more quickly.”

The British Property Federation have expressed that while this vision of what should happen is welcome, the question of how local authorities are going to implement the changes is not answered.

Liz Peace, chief executive at the BPF explained: “It's important that the bigger picture is not lost, and that local authorities are supported to put in place sensible plans for their areas, and to have the confidence to deliver the infrastructure, commercial space and housing that's needed.

“Properly resourced, well led local authorities will be essential to deliver this agenda. Delivering the infrastructure and development that we need will depend on local implementation and the efficacy of the carrots and sticks that are put in place to change local behaviour.”

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