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26th September 2012

September changes for planning and housing

On 6 September the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, together with Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, announced a number of initiatives and additional funding intended to boost the national economy through new housing and other development projects.

On 6 September the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, together with Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, announced a number of initiatives and additional funding intended to boost the national economy through new housing and other development projects. The proposals are intended to support businesses, developers, affordable providers and first-time home buyers and remove unnecessary red tape across the planning system. Some of the changes to the planning system are targeted to promote housing development, but the Government also announced proposals for the housing industry which are unconnected to the planning process. These include: Investing £200m in housing sites to ensure high quality rentals are available to institutional investors and establishing a task force to deliver more rented homes. New legislation for Government guarantees to support the delivery of both private and affordable housing. The guarantees form part of the Government’s plans for increased investment in the private rented sector, affordable housing and major infrastructure projects. Making available a further £300m to deliver up to 15,000 new affordable homes and for bringing 5,000 empty homes back into use. Helping first time home buyers. The Government will allocate £280m to extend its FirstBuy scheme and hopes to grow its NewBuy mortgage indemnity scheme. Accelerating the release of public open space by strengthening the role of the Homes and Communities Agency through a targeted programme of land transfers from other government departments and agencies and providing a single “shop window” for all public sector land. The Government had already, in last year’s Housing Strategy, set out various proposals to help unlock stalled housing development and has recently launched a consultation on the details of its proposal to allow renegotiation of planning obligations agreed in more buoyant market conditions. It has now made further proposals to speed up the planning process and “remove unnecessary bureaucracy that can hinder sustainable growth”. Proposals to speed up the planning process include: Directing more “big commercial and residential applications” to a major infrastructure fast track. Encouraging increased use of Planning Performance Agreements for major schemes. Considering the use of call-in for major new settlements with larger than local impacts. Legislation to allow applications to be decided by the Planning Inspectorate where a local authority has a poor track record for the speed and quality of its decision-making. Giving Planning Inspectors more power to initiate an award of costs in planning appeal proceedings where an application has not been handled with due process. Exploring options to speed up planning appeals and for a new fast-track procedure for some small commercial appeals. The Government has also already instructed the Planning Inspectorate to prioritise all major economic and housing related appeals with immediate effect, and has extended provisions allowing for the extension of planning permissions before they expire for an additional year. Other measures for temporary relaxation of planning restrictions include: Legislation to allow developers to ask the Planning Inspectorate to reduce affordable housing requirements for a three year period where a scheme would otherwise be unviable. Consulting on legislation to allow developers to renegotiate non-viable Section 106 Agreements entered into prior to April 2010. Increasing permitted development rights to allow extensions and improvements to homes and business premises without obtaining planning permission. The Government has also launched a fundamental and urgent review to seek to rationalize affordable housing standards across the country. They will also be introducing permitted development rights to enable change of use from commercial to residential purposes. David Cameron said that, together with the Housing Strategy, the proposals “provide a comprehensive plan to unleash one of the biggest homebuilding programmes this country has seen in a generation”. However concerns have of course already been voiced. Many believe that any boost to housing and jobs by removing restrictions in the planning system may be limited if it is homeowners and developers’ lack of finance and not the planning process which is in fact causing a bottleneck. Likewise, the “extra” funding being made available for new affordable housing may not be enough to encourage affordable providers to significantly increase their development programme. If you are interested in the changes affecting the housing industry, please contact Yvette Morgan on 01908 247012 or email yvettemorgan@hewitsons.com. For more information on the planning changes, please contact Deborah Sharples on 01223 461155 or email deborahsharples@hewitsons.com.

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