Jonathan Rubins

What do the government's planning reforms mean for developers?

It’s fair to say that the Budget was more than a little underwhelming for the housing market, and there was little to excite developers, other than the announcement the following day that housing secretary Robert Jenrick would be outlining proposals to improve the planning system.

The Planning for the Future report aims to encourage the construction of more new homes, with a number of measures that are designed to remove points of friction from the planning process.
As part of the proposals, councils will be encouraged to take a more innovative approach to housebuilding, with a housing-led redevelopment of high streets and new permitted development rights introduced for building upwards on existing buildings.
Developers will also be permitted to demolish vacant commercial buildings, industrial buildings and residential blocks and replace them with well-designed new residential units.
In addition, the government announced the launch of a register of brownfield sites to map out unused land and committed to a £400m investment to use brownfield land more productively. It also said that it would review the formula for calculating local housing need — introducing a new approach to encourage greater building within and near to urban areas.
And, it was announced that in the spring, the government will publish a “bold and ambitious” planning white paper designed to accelerate the planning process by maximising the potential of new technologies and reflecting international best practice.
The white paper is expected to include:
  • reform of planning fees to create a world-class planning service
  • automatic rebates where planning applications are successful at appeal 
  • ensuring that land for housing is built out — with clearer information of who owns land and the exploration of wider options to encourage planning permissions to be built out more quickly
  • expansion of the use of zoning tools to support development
  • improvements to the effectiveness, take-up and role of compulsory purchase orders to help facilitate land assembly and infrastructure delivery
The devil is in the detail, of course, but the proposals announced by Jenrick and the early indications of the contents of the upcoming white paper paint a positive picture for those developers who have an appetite to increase their output in 2020 and beyond.
The best way to take advantage of this focus on improving the planning process is by partnering with an experienced development finance lender that understands the market, the potential pitfalls and can help a developer to achieve the most from their scheme.

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