BOXFORD NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN


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THE 2020 PLANS FOR NEW PLANNING PERMISSION LAWS IN FULL

07 August 2020

The 2020 plans for new planning permission laws in full

LOCAL PLANS

What are they proposing?
Under the new reforms, every local authority will have a local plan that sets clear rules for development. These will invite residents and politicians to get involved at the planning stage, with little or no say over individual developments once those plans are in place. After that, new buildings will have to meet a single "sustainable development" test that replaces existing assessments on local impact on the environment and viability.

Why?
This would encourage all local authorities to think about long-term plans for the area and would force them to do it quickly and briefly — local plans will have to be completed in 30 months, compared with seven years at present, and are expected to be about two-thirds shorter.

What will they say?
Some industry experts say the timescale is ambitious. "The front loading of decision making has been becoming more prevalent over the years, but the government reforms place enormous emphasis on plan preparation. This is brave when England has never had universal plan coverage at any one time, in fact that coverage has been extremely poor," Iain Jenkinson, head of national planning at CBRE, says.

RELEASING LAND

What are they proposing?
Whitehall will impose housing requirements on local councils, with those in more affluent areas required to release the most land.

Why?
Allowing local councils an element of discretion over their targets is judged to have failed, particularly in areas with chronic shortages. This reform will essentially enable Whitehall to distribute a national target, at present 300,000 new homes a year, to councils, leaving them with only the discretion of which land to designate for building rather than how much.

What will they say?
This is likely to be one of the most controversial elements of the new system, particularly since the government insists that it will require councils with the least affordable housing — typically in Conservative-controlled affluent areas — to release the most land.

DESIGN CODES

What are they proposing?
A national design code that will set out clear rules for developers nationally, that will be tweaked at a local level. This will be based on the Building Better, Building Beautiful report, published last week, that wants planners to "ask for beauty" in architectural design and will fast-track approval for "beautiful" developments. It also wants all new streets to be tree-lined and new homes to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Why?
Consulting local residents on the merits of individual developments is "meaningless" and Whitehall says it takes too long to approve good designs. This would mean that local residents can say what they would like to see at the strategic planning stage and each local authority would have a chief design officer that would push new buildings through if they adhere to the design code.

What will they say?
This top-loading of the planning system is a radical overhaul and it will take months, if not years, to achieve a consensus on what is "good" design. Even once a code is in place it will be open to interpretation, and critics say it could pave the way for more appeals from developers. "Having a ‘code’ does not automatically translate into ‘quality’. A pattern-book, as mentioned by [Robert] Jenrick [the housing secretary], can work if it is context specific," Riette Oosthuizen, head of urban planning at the architecture firm HTA Design, says.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

What are they proposing?
At present developers have to pay a mixture of levies and meet conditions that typically include providing a set number of affordable housing units in a particular scheme and helping councils to meet the costs associated with an increased population. The reforms will scrap both Section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy and replace them with a single Infrastructure Levy. The government is also starting a First Homes scheme in which a 30 per cent discount on properties sold to first-time buyers is locked in so that the next buyer can benefit.

Why?
Ministers insist that more affordable homes can be built as a result. They say that the new system will be more flexible and efficient. It will also remove a source of cash from local authorities, however, with central government collecting the tax and distributing the revenue.

What will they say?
That the proof will be in the pudding and that removing the requirement on developments to include a proportion of affordable units risks creating less mixed communities.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: "Last year, Section 106 agreements delivered almost 28,000 affordable homes, about half of the total. This policy also helps ensure that every town and community across the country is made up of people on different incomes, living in a range of homes.

"Any alternative to Section 106 must ensure we can deliver more high quality affordable homes to meet the huge demand across the country. Any new system must also enable the ‘levelling up’ of communities that have already been left behind, such as rural communities or places with a struggling local economy.

"We must also remember that, ultimately, the best way of ensuring we build enough social housing is through direct investment from the government."

DIGITISATION OF PLANS

What are they proposing?
Ministers want planning to go "digital-first", which would mean making all information about development applications available to view on your phone, including how much developers are paying through the new Infrastructure Levy. Interactive maps could be used to show residents what can be built where and the government wants to work with property tech start-ups to standardise information and update the software local planning departments use. There will be a PropTech innovation council to promote these companies and involve them in planning.

Why?
At present, residents and developers have to request reams of documents and the government says this is old fashioned and time consuming. Making everything publicly available to read online would make these documents more accessible, but it would also increase transparency and productivity for local planners, while promoting PropTech, an emerging sector in the UK that is potentially worth about £6 billion, according to Forbes.

What will they say?
This has been generally well-received, particularly by those set to benefit in the PropTech sector. "Covid-19 has acted as a catalyst for the digitisation of several areas of the property sector and the planning sector is no exception. The pandemic has highlighted the need for digital access from anywhere," Andy Sommerville, director of Search Acumen, a property data insight and technology provider, says.

"Now is the time to put data at the heart of the planning processes. By enabling widespread access to interactive maps and instant access to land and property data, we can ensure that the risks are properly assessed even before a brick has been laid."

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