A lot of it is ‘hot air’ in my opinion. Every year one politician or another says they want to change the planning system to say ‘Yes!’. PPS1, the key planning policy statement, already mentions that the aim of planning is to enable development.
The actual text from the Budget is:
The planning system has held back investment and created distortions in the way that businesses compete, deterring development and growth. To address this, the Government will:
- introduce a new presumption in favour of sustainable development, so that the default answer to development is ‘yes’;
- localise choice about the use of previously developed land, removing nationally imposed targets while retaining existing controls on greenbelt land;
- pilot a land auction model, starting with public sector land;
- introduce a number of measures to streamline the planning applications and related consents regimes removing bureaucracy from the system and speeding it up. This will include a 12 month guarantee for the processing of all planning
applications, including any appeals;
- ensure a fast-track planning process for major infrastructure applications through the Major Infrastructure Planning system; and
- consult on proposals to make it easier to convert commercial premises to residential.
You will note he says he wants to speed up the system, but also mentions that application+appeal could still take up to 12 months. Certainly an improvement for major projects, but not much help for anyone else. He also doesn’t include pre-app in this which can drag on equally long.
The consultation on making it easer to convert commercial to residential is interesting, but I can’t see how they can do this via permitted development rights as was inferred earlier this week. Many vacant commercial properties are wholly unsuitable for residential occupation, and for there to be no scrutiny would be very surprising indeed.
Whilst the planning system is certainly going to change markedly over the next 12-18 months with the introduction of the Localism Bill, I don’t think anything George Osbourne mentioned yesterday will come to much. Click here for more on the Localism Bill.
An interesting time in the murky world of planning.