Planning Announcements – October 2022: Investment Zones, Mini Budget and Planning Inspectorate Powers
The Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has announced relaxed planning restrictions in new “investment zones” as part of the Government’s mini budget which outlines the growth strategy and promised tax cuts. In the 2022 Growth Plan the government sets out the investment zones’ aim to drive investment employment and help people get on the property ladder. The Zones will be one or more specific sites within a Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) and Upper Tier Local Authority (UTLA) where a variety of tax, regulatory innovations and planning simplifications will apply (reducing need for consent). The areas hosting the zones are expected to benefit from:
- Lower taxes as businesses in designated sites will reap benefits such as 100% business rates relief on newly occupied and expanded premises, and full stamp duty tax relief on land bought for commercial and residential development.
- Accelerated development as there will be designated development sites to release more land for residential and commercial development, and to support accelerated development.
- Wider support for local growth as MCA’s hosting investment zones will receive a single local growth settlement in the next Spending Review period.
The Government is currently in discussions with 38 local authorities to establish the investment zones, and a fact sheet published on the 23rd of September said that the Government would set out ‘further detail on the liberalised planning offer for Investment Zones in due course”.
In addition to Investment Zones, the mini budget also saw further planning announcements including the following:
- “Accelerating housing delivery by building homes in the places people want to live and work” – Whilst a popular political catch phrase, it sits uncomfortably with announced intended policy changes. In the press, intentions have been announced to remove centrally set housing targets and the requirement to have a 5-year housing land supply. In our view, the workable options available are centrally set housing targets or a return to bygone days of locally set targets, but with the return of regional planning to address housing need and numbers. In our view, a halfway house of a partial return to bygone days, but without the regional strategies in place is more likely to reduce housing planning permissions and delivery and increase the number of Local Plans found to be unsound for failing to meet the local housing need. The proposals seem to lack credibility for achieving the stated objective of accelerating housing delivery.
- Plans to accelerate new roads, rail and energy infrastructure with new legislation to cut barriers and restrictions making it quicker to build new roads and speeding up the development of energy infrastructure, including consenting more through the Highways Act 1980.
- The introduction of a new Planning and Infrastructure Bill to accelerate priority major infrastructure projects in England (particularly DCOs), intended to:
- Minimise the burden of Environmental Assessments.
- Make consultation requirements more proportionate.
- Reform habitats and species regulation.
- Enable changes to a development consent order once submitted.
Further Planning Announcements
Prior to the publication of the 2022 Growth Plan, Prime Minister, Liz Truss, and the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Simon Clarke, have commented on proposals for planning reform, and therefore there are further expected plans under the new leadership.
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill has been introduced to Parliament by the Government, which has a sunset clause on the majority of retained EU law so that it expires on 31 December 2023. Once enacted, all retained EU law contained in domestic secondary legislation and retained direct EU legislation will expire on this date, unless otherwise preserved.
Reports in the press are that the Government wants to roll back EU retained environmental law. Some announcements have made as set out above on environmental assessments and habitats. In the run up to her leadership, the Prime Minister also announced as another example that she wanted to scrap the rules dictating that developers can only get planning permission if their schemes have no nutrient pollution impact on protected watercourse, due to the rules ‘slowing housebuilding.
A substantial watering down of EU related environmental protection would seem to be a non-starter with the Europe Union unless the Government reach the view that a good final deal on Brexit is no longer possible, paving the way for the Government to proceed with watering down the environmental protection.
The Prime Minister has also said she is expecting her new housing secretary, Simon Clarke, to look into the powers of the Planning Inspectorate – claiming that it is “too easy for local council’s to be overruled”. In our view, the Planning Inspectorate has been an exemplar of best practice, the Government’s criticisms are unfounded and the suggested reform risks upsetting the balance of the planning system.
The Prime Minister also commented on her approach to housebuilding, saying that “We need to build a million homes on the London green belt near railway stations, and around other growing cities, specifically to allow the under 40s to be able to own their homes. We should allow villages to expand by four or five houses a year without having to go through the planning system, so people can afford to live locally.” However, with approximately 2 years to go to the next General Election, it is doubtful that these types of policies are likely to happen in this Parliament because a discernible difference on the ground is unlikely before the next General Election and it is likely to be unpopular with Conservative MPs in these areas, who have proven to have a strong influence in recent times.
If you have any queries, please feel free to contact Robert Bruce.
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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