The LI has responded to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) consultation on the White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’. The white paper published in August 2020, sets out the Government’s proposals for “once in a generation” reform of England’s planning system.
Launching the white paper, the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, set out how the reforms would simplify the system, while giving more emphasis to quality, design and the environment, and would support recovery from the pandemic. The policy team has worked closely with members to create a comprehensive, robust response, hosting a roundtable and workshop to gather input.
The full consultation is available here.
The key headlines from the response
- We support the ambition for reform of the planning system to increase the standard of design and to improve environmental outcomes. The system is not broken, but reform is needed.
- The best planning is landscape-led. This means planning places which respond to their existing environment, work with natural assets, and create Environmental Net Gain wherever possible. It is good for people, good for nature, and good for the planet.
- The foremost challenge for planning is climate change: mitigating it and adapting places to its effects. If the planning system is not in service to addressing climate change, it is not fit-for-purpose. This means building in the right place, with low-carbon materials, and designing places that are green, resilient, dense, and walkable.
- A plan-led map-based system, with use of zonal permissions where appropriate, can achieve this. However, an overly simplistic approach risks creating unintended consequences, and a cautious approach to Design Code-led ‘Growth’ areas should be taken.
- Local areas must retain the ability to raise standards through locally-set policy, beyond national prescriptions. This is essential for innovation and to respond to local characteristics.
- Proper consideration of detailed environmental matters (ecology, flooding, amenity, etc.) is vital for sustainable development design. There should be no simplified route to detailed consent without due consideration of these.
- Raising the standard of design is essential and very welcome. This requires more professional attention, not less. Therefore whilst properly-skilled Chief Design Officers will be beneficial, new permitted development rights will not.
- Constraints should be included in national housing targets, but only if those constraints are accurately assessed. This must include broad landscape and environmental matters, including local designations.
- Proper sustainability assessment of both plans and applications is essential, and we agree this can be improved. The ambition must be to make EIA/SEA better, not just quicker.
- A digital-first system is the right ambition, if it results in greater transparency, democracy, and efficiency. In decision-making, qualitative human judgement will always be needed and should be the default.
- The replacement infrastructure levy will be a success only if it delivers more money for local infrastructure, including green infrastructure and its maintenance.
- Successful planning depends more-than-anything on diverse, skilled professionals; in the public and private sector, and across planning, design, construction, and management. Working with Professional Bodies to raise standards is vital.
We would like to thank all the members who inputted into our final response.