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Government threatens to impose local plans on councils

Planning iStock 000002733689Small 146x219Councils that fail to agree a local plan could face government intervention under new reforms proposed by the government as part of its efforts to improve the UK’s productivity growth.

Over the summer recess, the government will set a deadline by which time local authorities will be expected to have local plans in place, after which the Secretary of State will have the power to arrange for a local plan to be written, in consultation with residents. The government also intends to produce league tables of local authorities ranked by their progress in developing their local plans.

The government’s strategy, entitled ‘Fixing the Foundations’, also promised new measures and guidance to speed up the production and amendment of local plans and to improve levels of cooperation between authorities in meeting housing need. More detail is due to be published in the Autumn.

The proposals include new legislation to create of a new ‘zonal’ system for brownfield land, in which automatic planning permission in principle will be granted on brownfield sites identified on statutory registers of brownfield land suitable for housing in England. The government also said that it will modernise and strengthen the system of compulsory purchase orders, again with further detail to be published in the Autumn.

The productivity strategy also contains a number of measures aimed at increasing the speed of which planning decisions are made. These include the extension of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Regime to include infrastructure projects with an element of housing, a tightening of the planning performance regime so that authorities that make fewer than half of their decisions on time run the risk of designation and an extension of the performance regime to minor development applications.

Other proposals in the strategy include:

•    A new dispute resolution mechanism for s106 agreements to prevent s106 disputes from holding up major projects.

•    The devolution of greater planning powers to mayors and combined authorities as well as giving the forthcoming major of Manchester the power to create Development Corporations and to promote CPOs.

•    In London, the mayor is to be given new powers to call in planning applications of 50 homes or more and to increase the density of housing by removing the need for planning permission for upwards extensions up to the height of existing buildings.

•    Local authorities will be required to “proactively” plan for the delivery of Starter Homes and guidance will strength the presumption in favour of Starter Home developments, which will also be exempted from s106 contributions.

•    The government also confirmed that extension to “right to buy” to housing association tenants through a new Housing Bill.

The Local Government Association welcomed some of the proposals while expressing caution that some of the proposals threatened to undermine residents’ participation in the process.

It said: “Councils want to see brownfield sites developed and many of these new measures will help with that, such as stronger compulsory purchase order powers to help councils take on sites stuck in the system.

“However, it is important that we ensure the planning system remains proportionate and that local communities continue to have a say. Planning controls exist to ensure developments are of benefit to local communities.

“Councils and their planning committees are rightly central to that locally accountable democratic process, allowing local people to have an influence over the changing shape of their neighbourhoods.

“The fact is, planning is not what’s holding up development - it’s the cost of remediation and infrastructure. This is why the LGA has suggested measures such as devolution of funding for housing and infrastructure and introducing a sequential test for brownfield land, which would make sure developers prioritise brownfield sites.”

The full document can downloaded from the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/443897/Productivity_Plan_print.pdf

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