Key changes and responses to the planning white paper

The government’s Planning for the Future white paper entered into open consultation in August, outlining proposed changes to the current planning system and inviting views from public and private sectors, as well as the general public.

We’re taking a closer look at the proposed changes and some of the reactions it has received so far.

Local engagement

One of the biggest themes within the Planning for the Future whitepaper for England centres on localisation. The white paper encourages local authorities to rethink the way Local Plans are devised, with particular emphasis on how they engage with their communities. Furthermore, it highlights that they may be more successful in engaging communities if they place more emphasis on digital strategies.

However, this has attracted criticism from some planning experts as they point out the lack of direction provided around the recommendation, raising the point that successful engagement is achieved where trust has been established and also noting that these calls for radical change could disregard some existing and effective practices.

Digital transformation

Nonetheless, the government has acknowledged the growing calls for change as far as planning notices and local engagement are concerned, having been made significantly more evident as a result of the pandemic. Its recommendations include standardised, transparent and accessible datasets, planning decisions and contributions to enable interactive mapping functionalities and make proposals easier for everyone to understand. Quite what these proposed system fixes will be remains to be seen, however.

Building beautifully

Within its third focus on design and sustainability, the paper references alignment with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to maximise environmental benefits and target areas where an improved planning system could best aid environmental improvements.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) has highlighted concerns that the recommendations offer little to no explanation of how crucial environmental targets will be met, notably challenging the nature of proposed Sustainable Development Tests to determine their ability to meaningfully measure whether new developments will be zero-carbon.

Infrastructure delivery

A much talked about point within the paper is the proposed abolition of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), to be replaced with a new levy at a fixed rate where higher value areas pay higher contributions and some lower value areas may not need to pay the levy at all; the revenue of which will fund local infrastructure projects such as roads or social infrastructure like healthcare facilities.

Whilst the proposed reforms look to ensure local authorities are able to provide infrastructure whether they sit within areas of high or low land value, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has argued that the value uplift in some areas will still be insufficient to fund the required infrastructure needed in some areas.

What’s missing?

James Blakey, Planning Director for Moda Living, has commented on the lack of recognition for the Build to Rent (BTR) sector in terms of its potential for delivering new homes at scale, so it will be interesting to see what kinds of discussion may open with the government after the consultation ends.

On the surface, Planning for the Future appears to be a genuine attempt at instigating change within the planning sector, however it is clear that, despite a high volume of recommendations, there is still a vast amount of supporting information to come in order to support and guide local authorities around resources, digitisation and planning systems, as well as expand upon the clear roles that property sectors will have to play.

We will be analysing the proposals within Planning for the Future and its responses at the upcoming Residential Planning and Viability Conference on Wednesday 25th November. Click here to book your place at the event.