Today the government released proposals to tackle the UK planning system to speed up house building as part of its Productivity Plan. Commenting on the government proposals, Caroline Harper, Associate Director, JLL Planning & Development, said: "While moves to try and tackle the housing crisis are to be commended, Osborne’s Productivity Plan raises many questions as to how this will work in practice. The emphasis seems narrowly focused on home ownership, with limited scope for alternative housing product, particularly the private rented sector.
"Simplifying the planning regime for brownfield land sounds positive; however no indication has been given regarding timescales, which will presumably take some time to be operational given that it depends on brownfield registers. It will also be interesting to see how or indeed whether the government steps in to ensure that the resulting housing delivery is affordable, and how this impacts on viability. A more basic question is whether housing is being pushed to the detriment of other land uses, and how this sits with the National Policy Planning Framework’s (NPPF) emphasis on sustainable development."
Caroline Harper continues: "Most importantly, Osborne has failed to recognise that it is often a lack of resourcing that has inhibited the adoption of new local plans and the production of an up-to-date evidence base, and that delays the determination of planning applications. Decisions, particularly of major development, also become extremely political in the current planning system. While it is important that Local Planning Authorities (LPA’s) have up-to-date local plans in place, it is disappointing that the government proposes to take this entirely out of failing LPAs’ hands, in consultation with local communities, rather than working with those authorities, utilising Officers’ planning expertise and local knowledge."
Adam Challis, Head of Residential Research at JLL, added: "Local Planning Authorities will come under heavy pressure to approve a new surge in planning activity. Austerity cuts have meant that very few will be able to cope, representing the next bottleneck in the system. Once planning permission has been granted there is still a wide range of technical matters that will require a planner's attention - this will take resources that are in short supply.
"Land markets will become more active, although there may be the potential for price movement due to greater availability.
"These changes are likely to have only a modest impact on housing delivery rates in the short-term, whilst it is a positive step forward in addressing the pace of delivery, we are unclear if this will be a success as the industry is already running at capacity. Construction cost inflation is already pushing 6%-8% as supply chain and labour markets are still recovering from the 2009/10 downturn.
"Long-term, the Chancellor has laid down the gauntlet to house builders and developers. The industry must respond to these reforms with new investment in modern methods of construction that bring the UK's building methods into the 21st Century."
Caroline Harper concludes: "It is easy to be critical of the measures, when in fact it will take time for planners and the property sector to digest what is being proposed and for this to then become part of the planning system. There is a lot of detail still to be published by the government in coming months, and for now it remains the case that planning decisions must be made in accordance with the relevant development plan."