New Government Proposals to unblock housing
Pressure on LPA’s
Government may require local councils to compete in processing planning applications and offer fast-track application services.
Competition to Increased Choice
Proposals are now out for consultation which will increase local choice by giving applicants the option of submitting their plans to:-
- the local council
- a competing council
- a government-approved organisation that would process applications up until the decision point, have been put out to.
Final decision-making on planning applications would remain with the local council, meaning that any change may not be that radical.
Still Local Decisions
“The government’s consultation proposals may help on the admin side of processing planning applications, but they are not a game changer overall in terms of time taken to make a decision.” said Professor Noble Francis, economics director at the Construction Products Association.
In his view, "Effectively, if a local authority planning division has a spare resource, it can utilise it to process applications of other authorities but the decision would still be with the local authority where the planning application has been requested."
However, there are not that many planning divisions that have spare resources after the last few years of funding cuts. And the final decision is still reliant upon the local planning division that is likely to be resource constrained.
It may help on administrative processing but to address the serious issues of time taken to get from planning application to approval, local authorities need additional finance for planning divisions, not just for admin processing, but to ensure decisions go through efficiently.
Wider Measures Proposed
Part of a wider consultation the proposals include restricting future increases in council fees for processing planning applications, making these dependant on speed and quality of decisions. Other measures include:
- Details of how a new planning “permission in principle” approach will work in practice;
- How councils will run brownfield land and small sites registers;
- Speeding up the neighbourhood planning process;
- Improving handling of planning applications with new thresholds for designating councils as poor performers;
- Extending permitted development rights for free schools.
Communities secretary, Greg Clark, said: “Council planning departments play a vital role in getting local housebuilding off the ground, but for too long they have had no incentive to get things done quickly or better, resulting in drawn out applications and local frustration.” In his view these proposals will be a boost for house builders and for local people seeking planning permission for home improvements.
Good Design Still Essential
Readers will readily recognise that even if the ‘rules’ are changed, this will not mean reversion to simpler, more ‘chancy’ applications. And as housing designs change, so they also need to embrace new and improved methods, which in turn will benefit from closer collaboration with system suppliers, particularly from the MMC Off-Site sector. Engaging with them at the earliest possible stage can produce dividends in terms of time and cost saving both on and off site.