Get Britain building again. Get Britain’s economy growing again: An Overview of the Chancellor’s Speech

Following on from Labour’s election win, it is clear that immediate planning reform will be absolutely critical to deliver the Government’s ambitious plans to build the promised 1.5 million new homes over the next parliament (i.e. around 822 houses a day, assuming a 5 year parliament…).

Rachel Reeves gave her first speech yesterday as the new Chancellor, aimed at tackling our ‘antiquated planning system’ to deliver on the pledge, and to kick start economic growth. The speech is clear that planning reform is indeed front and centre of Labour’s agenda, and the Chancellor explicitly confirmed that the Government will not allow the status quo to continue i.e. political self-interest being put ahead of the national interest, and that ‘nowhere is decisive reform needed more urgently than in the case of our planning system’.

Below are some of the key announcements coming out of the speech:

  • A reform to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), consulting on a new growth-focused approach to the planning system before the end of this month, including restoring mandatory housing targets.
  • Immediately ending the ban on new onshore wind in England, through the removal of the two tests set out in footnotes 57 and 58 to paragraph 163 of the NPPF. There will also be a consultation on bringing onshore wind back into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime, meaning decisions on large developments will be taken nationally, not locally.
  • Prioritisation of existing energy projects in the system to ensure ‘swift progress’.
  • Creation of a new taskforce to accelerate stalled housing sites, beginning with Liverpool Central Docks, Worcester Parkway, Northstowe and Langley Sutton Coldfield, representing more than 14,000 homes.
  • Support for local authorities with 300 additional planning officers (just 0.82 officers per authority when you break it down).
  • Ministerial intervention in the economic benefits within the planning system, with no hesitation to review an application where the potential gain for the regional and national economies warrant it. Two appeals for data centres have already been recovered in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.
  • A clear direction to be provided to local Mayors and the Office for Investment to ensure that any opportunities for investment with important planning considerations are bought to both the Deputy Prime Minister’s and Chancellor’s attention.
  • The Deputy Prime Minister will write to local planning authorities alongside the NPPF consultation, making clear what will now be expected of them, including universal coverage of Local Plans, and reviews of green belt boundaries. This will prioritise brownfield and grey belt land for development to meet housing targets, where needed.
  • Plans to deliver the infrastructure that the Country needs, including prioritising decisions on infrastructure projects that have been sitting unresolved for ‘far too long’. New policy intentions for critical infrastructure are to be confirmed in the coming months, ahead of updating relevant National Policy Statements within the year.

The above sets out a very clear intention to ‘get Britain building again’. There is however a long way to go, and the Government has set itself a big challenge, with much detail to be confirmed. It will be interesting to see how far the changes go in the revised NPPF consultation expected this month, and whether these changes provide the short term impetus to accelerate economic development and housing delivery and give the Government genuine prospects of meeting the 1.5 million new homes target in the next five years. We are continuing to monitor updates and will report further in due course.

This article was written by Senior Associate, Beth Evans of our Planning and Environment Team. If you wish to discuss any matter relating to this article, or find out more about how the changes may impact you, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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