Fixing the foundations: creating a more prosperous nation
On 10 July 2015, the government published an 88-page ‘productivity plan’ entitled “Fixing the foundations: creating a more prosperous nation”. It contains numerous measures which the government intends to take in response to “the recent slowdown of productivity growth in the UK and, perhaps more importantly, to the long-standing gap compared to other countries”.
The plan contains reforms across a variety of areas, including taxation, transportation and welfare. Development is key to the economy; promoting productivity through employment and housing. There are several reforms aimed directly at the planning system:
- Local plans
Further action will be taken to ensure that local plans are put in place by early 2017. The government will publish league tables setting out each local authority’s progress on providing a local plan and, where a local authority is not progressing, the Secretary of State will intervene and arrange for a local plan to be written for them.
Local plans are intended to positively promote development and district-wide plans for jobs and housing.
- Brownfield ‘zonal’ systems
Legislation will follow the already promised statutory registers of brownfield land suitable for housing in England to grant automatic permission in principle on those sites. The government is considering compulsory purchase powers in respect of brownfield land.
Unlocking brownfield land is considered by the government to be key to creating housing; providing automatic planning permission will be an incentive to develop brownfield sites which are less desirable than greenfield.
- Quicker planning decisions
The government intends to speed up the planning process to avoid delays and hindrances to development. It will legislate to allow major infrastructure projects with an element of housing to apply through the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project regime. It intends to tighten up the local authority performance regime to reduce the threshold for designation and extend this to apply to minor applications. Further, it will try to speed up section 106 agreement negotiations with the introduction of a dispute resolution procedure.
There is a clear push towards making the application stage of the planning process faster for developers.
The Mayor of London will be given powers to call in planning applications of 50+ homes and work towards permitted development rights for upward extensions of a limited number of stories (up to the height of an adjoining building and where no objections have been received by neighbours).
The Mayor of Manchester will be given powers to set up Development Corporations and promote compulsory purchase.
Along with its focus on local plans, the government is looking to empower mayors and local authorities to promote development in their area.
The plan is available to download here.