The Government has set out plans to overhaul the country’s “outdated planning system’ and reform the way the country builds, with plans to “streamline the process, cut red tape and harness technology to deliver homes faster”. PBM considers some of the responses from the sector to the ‘Planning for the future’ white paper:
CEO David Hopkins said: “Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to ‘cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before’, and ‘create thousands of jobs and lessen the dominance of big builders in the system, providing a major boost for small building companies across the country’.
“Yesterday (August 6th), Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick released the anticipated Planning for the Future White Paper, which is now open for consultation over the next 12 weeks. The announced intention of creating a more open, transparent, and simple planning system is laudable, as well as the reintroduction of more SME’s into the sector.
“However good intentions are not sufficient foundation for a single home, let alone a planning system with effects rippling long into the future. Some aspects, such as the digitisation of planning, the ‘tree-lined’ streets policy, and encouragement of MMC (are welcome), but many others seem at a glance deeply worrying, such as the removal of local discretion in some areas.
“We are still working our way through the document, but we share concerns with other commentators around any erosion of standards and are seeking to understand the exact issue the Government is seeking to resolve. According to an LGA report this year, more than one million homes given planning permission in the last decade have not yet been built.
“At the TTF we are concerned there is a risk these reforms will see more permissions being granted long term, but not necessarily more houses being completed – as it is simply not clear that these changes to the planning system will result in more houses being built.
“We also note the LGA report suggests that it is Local Authorities who can ensure more sites with permission are completed if they are given the means, yet the reforms are suggesting less decision at a local level. Perhaps, at least in the short term, we should be concentrating on completions rather than permissions.
The TTF states it will seek to provide fuller analysis shortly and, in time, a response to the consultation in turn with our members.
The FMB has welcomed the “much needed opportunity to speed up the planning process and help diversify the housing market”, but warned that any shake-up must not compromise the quality of the homes built.
Chief Executive Brian Berry said: “Local, small builders are ready and waiting to play their part in delivering the homes, jobs, and growth we need if we are to ‘build, build, build’ our way to recovery. But the increasing complexities and costs of the planning system in England have held them back. Alongside struggles to access affordable land, 64% of developing small builders cite the planning system as the biggest barrier they face.”
Brian concluded: “We need a simpler and more responsive planning system, but I am clear that this shouldn’t compromise the quality of the homes that are built. Master Builders compete on quality, not on price, and have an important role to play in a more diverse housing market. We must also ensure local planning authorities are supported to respond to these changes, so that any shake-up doesn’t lead to further short-term delays in applications.
“If we get this right, making it easier for SME house builders to play a role will help support jobs, provide training opportunities for apprentices, and lead to higher quality, green homes that are fit for the future.”
Policy & Advocacy Chair Martin McTague said: “It’s great to see government finally stepping into this area, the bureaucracy surrounding which has long dogged small firms. The current planning process is slow, complicated and far too cumbersome, putting small construction firms off building applications.
“For years, it’s been fraught with uncertainty and lengthy delays, making projects expensive before a shovel has even hit the ground.
“So the news of this plan to overhaul the system is a hugely welcome. We look forward to working with the Ministry and wider government officials to feed into this consultation and hone what will hopefully become a more productive and positive planning process.
“Businesses that want to extend or build new premises, whether that be in city centres or rural areas, will hopefully be able to speed up a process that can take months or even years, as well as lowering costs. The proposed measures also include exempting small firms from Section 106, a levy which has for so long priced businesses out of building work. This sort of proposal shows that the Government is serious about making the lives of small firms better.
“These plans will give a crucial injection of energy into the small business construction sector which has been devastated for years now by the financial downturn and tricky planning conditions. The past few months have been some of the most challenging that small businesses have ever faced and moves like this are crucial to aiding long-term economic recovery.”
Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, said: “Whilst the Government claims to be “planning for the future”, it appears to be a future in which older people do not feature at all, and the needs of an ageing population are entirely unplanned for.
“These proposals entirely ignore the housing and potential care needs of 12 million older people. We call on the Government to give this issue urgent attention through specific policy commitments.
“The greatest housing shortage the UK faces is of older people’s housing with care and we are falling further behind other countries. Older people do not have enough good options to downsize to where they can have peace of mind that their health and care needs will be met.”
More to follow…