Planning Reform Proposals

Published Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reforms aimed at making the planning system quicker and simpler to use are high on the Government's agenda, as set out in the Productivity Plan. The Conservative Party's manifesto and new legislation announced in the May 2015 Queen's Speech also propose changes. This note sets out both the outstanding reforms from the former Government and these new proposals.

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The Conservative Party 2015 Manifesto document contained several planning commitments, including proposals to “change the law so that local people have the final say on windfarm applications” and to “let local people have more say on local planning and let them vote on local issues.”

In the Queen’s speech on 27 May 2015 two new bills were announced which would make changes to planning law: a Housing Bill which would introduce a statutory register for brownfield land and make changes to neighbourhood planning law; and an Energy Bill, which would remove certain onshore wind farms from the nationally significant development consent process. Instead of the final decision on development consent being taken by the Secretary of State, it would return these onshore wind projects to the planning application process where the decision is taken by the local planning authority in the first instance.

The Government’s July 2015 Productivity Plan, Fixing the Foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation, contained a number of proposed planning reforms including:

  • intervention by the Secretary of State over the production of local plans where local authorities are judged to be too slow;
  • a zonal system for brownfield land creating automatic permission for housing;
  • a tighter planning performance regime designed to encourage faster planning application processing times; and
  • new legislation to allow major infrastructure projects with “an element” of housing to be considered as part of the Planning Act 2008 development consent regime.

The Government’s August 2015 rural productivity plan, Towards a one nation economy: A 10-point plan for boosting productivity in rural areas, also announced some changes, designed to make the planning process easier in rural areas including new permitted development rights and making it easier to develop a neighbourhood plan and allocate land for starter homes.

The former Government made some major reforms to the planning system, with the introduction of the Localism Act 2011 and the National Planning Policy Framework. Changes were also made in the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013, and in the Infrastructure Act 2015, aimed at speeding up the planning system.

Outside of these Acts the former Government made a number of other announcements on planning reform, which have not yet been implemented. It is not yet known whether the new Government will continue to take all of these further. This includes whether to extend the current temporary change of use permitted development right to convert office space into residential dwellings.

This note sets out more information about the key planning reform announcements and an overview the proposals. Most of the proposals would apply to England only. For information about proposals to stimulate housing supply see Library standard note, Stimulating housing supply.

Commons Briefing papers SN06418

Author: Louise Smith

Topics: Planning, Housing, Regional planning and development, Housing supply

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