“The Business and Planning Bill – a break in the clouds for the development industry.”
“Key decisions will be taken from local councils and handed to development corporations.”
“In recent years an increased focus on financial negotiations between public authorities and developers has made simple yes/no decisions into more complex transactions, sparking concerns the system lacks transparency and is vulnerable to corruption.”
There’s real concern for the future of the high street – with current efforts focussing on opening them up:
As reported in the Sunday Times earlier in the month, the government wants to get moving:
The moment Boris Johnson decided to move faster to lift the coronavirus lockdown can be dated precisely to a meeting on Tuesday morning when the prime minister blurted out the word “Christ!” Johnson was listening to a presentation on the economy from Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and Alok Sharma, the business secretary. Johnson’s outburst was prompted by Sharma outlining how 3½ million jobs would be lost in the hospitality industry if pubs, bars and restaurants were not open to reap the rewards of summer.
It went on to report on exactly how the government wants to get moving (paywall):
“In an attempt to help the high street, businesses will be able to change their use “with complete flexibility”. Cummings and Jenrick … will move to a zonal planning system where key decisions will be taken from local councils and handed to development corporations — though building on the green belt will not be permitted.”
There is a lot of excitement around these proposals:
Reforms proposed in a new Business and Planning Bill published by the UK government highlight the central role the planning process has to play in the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus outbreak…
The CPRE is not happy:
If you thought the planning system was already loaded in favour of developers, things might be about to get a whole lot worse. The government is reportedly considering a ‘zonal planning system’ in which “key decisions will be taken from local councils and handed to development corporations”. Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, is said to be influencing the government’s approach to planning and working with Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, on a plan to “kick-start housebuilding and infrastructure spending”.
And in the context of stories around the Housing Minister, today’s Guardian looks at the current planning system a little more deeply – and asks if developers already have the upper hand anyway:
The planning system has historically cast developers and politicians in poacher and gamekeeper roles. But in recent years an increased focus on financial negotiations between public authorities and developers has made simple yes/no decisions into more complex transactions, sparking concerns the system lacks transparency and is vulnerable to corruption.
After years of austerity, cash-strapped councils have become more reliant on using planning deals with developers to provide affordable housing and funds for community infrastructure such as schools and play centres.
It was this financialisation of planning, in the form of the community infrastructure levy (CIL), that snared Jenrick and Desmond over the latter’s plan to turn a redundant printworks in east London into a £1bn housing-led development. The CIL is a per-square-metre charge which councils have been able to apply to large projects since 2010.
Multimillion-pound negotiations such as over Desmond’s CIL payment now form the centrepiece of many planning applications. Section 106 agreements – deals over how much affordable housing and other community benefits developers will fund – have long been standard. But since planning changes by the coalition government in 2012, developers have also been able to complain to planners that their demands are eating too much into their profits. They are allowed to present financial viability studies, essentially spreadsheets based on often speculative and hard-to-check numbers which argue that if they spend too much on affordable housing, they won’t make enough money. These have often not been made public.
All in all, a planning system that used to be concerned primarily with land use has become much more about land value.
Each side appoints financial consultants to probe the other’s workings, creating “an arms race”, according to Bob Colenutt, author of The Property Lobby, an investigation into the housing crisis. “The negotiations go on behind closed doors and thousands of units of affordable housing are at risk,” he said. “It is murky and not transparent. It also causes delay when the developers argue about not being able to provide policy-compliant schemes.”
Meanwhile, in Sidmouth…
There was a ‘contribution’ from developers of a twice-rejected gated community in Sidford:
Both previous applications were refused on the basis that they failed to provide a sufficient contribution towards affordable housing, but following a change in Central Government Policy, through the publication of the new National Planning Policy Framework, Churchill’s third application offered a financial contribution of £677,434.
There was no such contribution coming from developers for the rejected gated community at Knowle:
FInally, Sidmouth is still waiting for the much-promised cash coming from the Section 106 agreement or Community InfrastructureLevy agreed to with developers at the former Fortfield Hotel, destroyed by fire some ten years ago: