“Planning for the future”, the government’s Planning White Paper published on 6 August 2020 and on which the consultation closes this week (29 October 2020), has been widely publicised and analysed in depth by the development community. As we said in our blog earlier this month, given the impact of the White Paper’s proposals on development in the short and the long term, developers should respond to this consultation. However, another consultation on the planning system in England, which closes the following day, on 30 October 2020, hasn’t been so widely publicised. This latter consultation is a Call for Evidence by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLGC) for an inquiry into the government’s proposals for reforming the planning system. Although the Call for Evidence was only issued on 8 October 2020, developers should find it easy to respond to, because it asks questions that are prompted by the Planning White Paper consultation but not expressly dealt with by it.
What does the HCLGC consultation ask that the White Paper doesn’t?
“The future of the planning system in England” inquiry is gathering evidence which, whether intentionally or otherwise, will test the Prime Minister’s statement in his Foreword to the White Paper that the planning system in England is “outdated and ineffective”, that it is “artificially constraining” England’s potential and, in particular, that it is the planning system’s fault that “we have nowhere near enough homes in the right places”. The inquiry also tackles the issue of the future of the green belt, on which the Planning White Paper is surprisingly silent. In my view, if the aims of the White Paper are to be achieved, particularly the urgent increase in supply of new homes, these are important questions, the answers to which should guide which proposals the government should take forward and how. From initial responses to the White Paper seen in the many discussions that have taken place on it, it seems as though others in the development industry agree. Perhaps the questions being put by the HCLGC inquiry should have been asked by the government before the White Paper was published. Ideally, MHCLG will wait to take account of the answers received before pressing on with their fundamental reforms.
Questions asked by the HCLGC Call for Evidence:
- Is the current planning system working as it should do? What changes might need to be made? Are the Government’s proposals the right approach?
- In seeking to build 300,000 homes a year, is the greatest obstacle the planning system or the subsequent build-out of properties with permission?
- How can the planning system ensure that buildings are beautiful and fit for purpose?
- What approach should be used to determine the housing need and requirement of a local authority?
- What is the best approach to ensure public engagement in the planning system? What role should modern technology and data play in this?
- How can the planning system ensure adequate and reasonable protection for areas and buildings of environmental, historical, and architectural importance?
- What changes, if any, are needed to the green belt?
- What progress has been made since the Committee’s 2018 report on capturing land value and how might the proposals improve outcomes? What further steps might also be needed?
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