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The ‘planning revolution’ in house building – comment

  • by JW

“It really does seem good in intention ….. I am not sure that they can implement it though.”


The latest bulletin from the heritage organisation Historic England looks at planning:

Planning Bulletin: August 2020

And it follows on from the govenment’s own proposals on planning:

The ‘planning revolution’ in house building – consultation launched – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Many of which have stirred some controversy:

Planning and local democracy: of zoning laws and revolt – Vision Group for Sidmouth


However, as a correspondent points out, there are a lot of potential positives in the new proposals, as covered by the Historic England report:


COMMENT: There is lots in there about the importance of Neighbourhood Plans and the Build Better Build Beautiful paper and about developers having to bring developments along once they have permission.

Also stuff about updating the Community Infrastructure Levy, so that the growth in value is properly reflected; the removal of the ability to claim it would be “unviable” too.

They are also keen on development land being shared between several developers and removing the ‘need to cooperate’ from Local Plans.

It really does seem good stuff in intention ….. I am not sure that they can implement it though.


With specific excerpts chosen from the government’s planning proposals here, illustrating the ‘good stuff’ – plus the occasional comment:


Assessments of housing need, viability and environmental impacts are too complex and opaque: land supply decisions are based on projections of household and business ‘need’ typically over 15- or 20-year periods. These figures are highly contested and do not provide a clear basis for the scale of development to be planned for. Assessments of environmental impacts and viability add complexity and bureaucracy but do not necessarily lead to environmental improvements nor ensure sites are brought forward and delivered

We have heard that for many developers the worst thing that can happen is for the lead local authority official to leave their job – suggesting a system too dependent on the views of a particular official at a particular time, and not transparent and accessible requirements shaped by communities.

COMMENT: I think we have had a lot in EDDC which has been affected by the person not the law!

There is not enough focus on design, and little incentive for high quality new homes and places: There is insufficient incentive within the process to bring forward proposals that are beautiful and which will enhance the environment, health, and character of local areas. Local Plans do not provide enough certainty around the approved forms of development, relying on vague and verbal statements of policy rather than the popularly endorsed visual clarity that can be provided by binding design codes. This means that quality can be negotiated away too readily and the lived experience of the consumer ignored too readily

The planning system needs to be better at unlocking growth and opportunity in all parts of the country, at encouraging beautiful new places, at supporting the careful stewardship and rebirth of town and city centres, and at supporting the revitalisation of existing buildings as well as supporting new development.

Create a virtuous circle of prosperity in our villages, towns and cities, supporting their ongoing renewal and regeneration without losing their human scale, inheritance and sense of place. We need to build more homes at gentle densities in and around town centres and high streets, on brownfield land and near existing infrastructure so that families can meet their aspirations. Good growth will make it easier to level up the economic and social opportunities available to communities.

Underpinning this, we need to modernise the day-to-day operation of the planning system. Residents should not have to rely on planning notices attached to lamp posts, printed in newspapers or posted in libraries. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for modern digital planning services that can be accessed from home, and many planners and local authorities have responded brilliantly to this challenge. The planning system must build on this success and follow other sectors in harnessing the benefits which digitisation can bring – real-time information, high-quality virtual simulation, straightforward end-to-end processes. It should be based on data, not documents, inclusive for all members of society, and stimulate the innovation of the great British design industry.

Local Plans should set clear rules rather than general policies for development. We will set out general development management policies nationally, with a more focused role for Local Plans in identifying site- and area-specific requirements, alongside locally produced design codes. This would scale back the detail and duplication contained in Local Plans, while encouraging a much greater focus on design quality at the local level. Plans will be significantly shorter in length (we expect a reduction in size of at least two thirds), as they will no longer contain a long list of “policies” of varying specificity – just a core set of standards and requirements for development

COMMENT: In fact all the suggestions about local plans seem sensible having had experience of reading them in East Devon!

However I am not sure how they can do this…

For example, to ensure more land is available for the homes and development people and communities need, while also protecting Green belt, SSI, AONB etc.

Planning for the future – GOV.UK