I have recently received a number of emails highlighting concerns about the reforms to our planning system, and I know this is an important issue for my constituents.
Our planning system needs to work for those who use it to make sure new homes, businesses and vital infrastructure are not held back by outdated, complicated and time-consuming bureaucracy. It takes an average of five years for an application for residential development to go through the planning system before building can even begin. This cannot be right for our communities who want homes to live in, places to work, and schools and hospitals built.
Many in and out of Government think that the reforms to the planning system are indeed radical, but also necessary to cut red tape while maintaining standards and protecting our Green Belt and greenfield sites. Under the new proposals and through local democratic agreement, land will be designated under the categories of growth, renewal or protection. Every area will also need to have a local plan in place for building more homes, helping local communities drive change and decide what gets built and where. Local housing plans should be developed and agreed in 30 months, rather than the seven years it often takes.
The issue with housing is that we have a growing population - more people who want their own homes and places to work, schools hospitals etc. The reforms are to streamline the process so that there are less delays to providing necessary infrastructure. Of course we also have to balance this with protecting our existing communities and green spaces. That’s why we’ve also introduced reforms like a fast-track system for beautiful homes and new streets are to be lined with trees, helping make and keep places appealing.
Land designated for growth will allow new homes, schools, shops and hospitals to be permitted as long as they meet local design and quality standards. Renewal areas will be provided with a 'permission in principle' approach subject to checks and balances with an emphasis on high quality that meets design standards. Our heritage sites and green spaces will continue to be protected and preserved for the enjoyment of local communities and future generations, with development taking place on brownfield sites.
I believe that the new rule-based planning system will make the best use of technology to increase transparency and accessibility, and save taxpayer money being spent on outdated procedures. A new and simpler national levy will replace developer contributions, which are often the source of major delays, and allow more funds to be raised for social infrastructure to the benefit of communities. The reforms will also make the construction sector more efficient, helping small and medium sized housebuilders compete with large developers. My ministerial colleagues in the Housing Ministry have also made assurances that key workers, local people and first-time buyers will be front and centre in the First Homes scheme, which will provide a 30% discount on the purchase of a home.
The consultation on planning for the future has been launched and is now open to views from the public, businesses and local government. I would strongly encourage those of you who have further concerns to take part in the consultation, which can be found here, and share your views. This would be the best way to make sure your voice is heard.
I hope the above information is useful, and thanks again to those who took the time to raise this with me.