Planning Freethinking May 2022: The Queen’s Speech – Planning, Infrastructure and Environment Announcements
The white paper published in February 2022 proposed the Government’s new plans to end the ‘geographical inequalities across the UK’ with planning and infrastructure playing its part to addressing the issue. The Queen’s Speech delivered on the 10th May confirmed the proposals to be brought into law and policy on planning and infrastructure. Below we have identified the key proposals that will impact the planning and environmental legal sector.
- A new locally set non-negotiable Levy for developers to provide funding needed by local communities for infrastructure, with the intention to abolish the Community Infrastructure Levy and S106 financial contributions.
- Every part of England to be offered a Devolution Deal by 2030.
- The ‘Levelling Up Home Building Fund’ of £1.5 Billion.
- Providing powers through the ‘High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill’ to enable compulsory acquisition of land needed to build and operate the railway.
- The creation of the ‘UK Infrastructure Bank Bill’ for investment in infrastructure projects, particularly those not previously engaged with by the private sector.
- Transport Bill – “simplify the railways”.
- Continued development of safe and secure energy supplies through the Energy Security Bill, and a pledge to build eight nuclear power stations and further wind and solar energy supply.
- Improve digitisation, understanding and standardisation of systems to encourage engagement from local communities and improve the time scale of local planning matters.
- Introduction of an environmental assessment in the planning system to prioritise the environment in planning decisions.
- New powers for local authorities, such as powers over empty premises and rental auctions of vacant commercial properties.
The planning proposals are significantly diminished from what was proposed in the Planning White Paper in August 2020 and fall more into the category of tinkering with the system, following a backlash from Tory MPs in certain parts of the Country. The extent to which the diminished proposals will make a real difference is in doubt. Past experience provides an indication on the effect and outcomes of tinkering with the planning system.
The full impact of the new national Infrastructure Levy for developers, local communities and local authorities cannot be fully assessed until more details are available. However, what will be left of S106 obligations will be important. Councils may shift obligations into a form that remains within the reduced S106, for example, by requiring direct provision by the developer, rather than a financial contribution. To the extent that large infrastructure payments are made that will fund essential infrastructure for a particular development site, we envisage that developers will be looking for side agreements with Councils to ensure the money is spent for those purposes within agreed timescales to provide sufficient certainty for the carrying out of developments and funding. We suspect both developers and Councils will be looking to structure planning requirements that avoid such arrangements.
Additionally, if Councils may be expected to forward fund infrastructure with loans against the prospective Infrastructure Levy receipts as previously suggested, we suspect that will not be attractive to Councils as they would, in effect, be underwriting part of the developer’s development risk and providing potential exposure of public funds to the debt. How the Infrastructure Levy payments linked to occupation of the development, as has been previously proposed, to provide land value capture then works in reality to provide infrastructure when needed is unclear.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
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