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03rd July 2020

Build, Build, Build: Government Announces Radical Reforms to the Planning System

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On 30 June, the Prime Minister announced what he describes as the “most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War” as part of his Project Speed programme to get the country building again post COVID-19.
The aim is to make it easier to build better homes where people want to live and support a high street revival.

There will be new regulations to allow the use of town centre properties to be changed to residential use. In addition, through the reform of the Use Classes Order, more types of commercial buildings will have total flexibility to be repurposed for other uses – for instance, a building used for retail will be able to be used permanently as a café or office without the need for planning permission. However, there is a recognition that there is a need to protect pubs, libraries, village shops and other types of uses “essential to the lifeblood of communities”.

There is a proposal to remove the need to make a “normal planning application” to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes, a proposal that RIBA has expressed concerns about. In addition, there will be a “fast track” approval process for upward extensions to properties, subject to neighbour consultation.

These changes are planned to come into effect by September and a planning Policy Paper setting out a plan for “comprehensive reform of England’s seven-decade old planning system” is promised in July. The Government intends to explore options to encourage planning permissions to be built out more quickly, and to expand the use of “zoning” tools to simplify the process of granting planning permission for residential and commercial development in particular areas. They will also include a new planning fee structure, linked to a new performance framework, and automatic rebates where refused applications are successful on appeal. There is also an intention to reform the compulsory purchase order process, to speed up land being freed for development and delivery of new infrastructure.

As always, the impact of these new reforms will depend on the detail, but some have queried the need to do away with the existing system altogether, particularly in a time when the Government already has a lot on its plate.

For more information about these changes or advice on anything raised above, please
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