Planning White Paper

I'm not a planner but am quickly turning in to an honorary 'planorak'.  I am, therefore, as interested as most people in the sector to understand the potential impact of the Government's planning white paper, 'Planning for the future', launched on 6th August.  Here's a quick summary of what the white paper seems to be aiming to achieve and some initial reactions I've picked up in a series of webinars and blogs since the launch. 


So what is the white paper aiming to achieve?  Based on the MHCLG website key reforms of the white paper will mean:

  • Local communities will be consulted from the very beginning of the planning process. By harnessing the latest technology through online maps and data, the whole system will be made more accessible

  • Valued green spaces will be protected for future generations by allowing for more building on brownfield land and all new streets to be tree lined

  • Much-needed homes will be built quicker by ensuring local housing plans are developed and agreed in 30 months – down from the current 7 years

  • Every area to have a local plan in place – currently only 50% of local areas has a plan to build more homes

  • The planning process to be overhauled and replaced with a clearer, rules based system. Currently around a third of planning cases that go to appeal are overturned at appeal

  • A new simpler national levy to replace the current system of developer contributions which often causes delay

  • The creation of a fast-track system for beautiful buildings and establishing local design guidance for developers to build and preserve beautiful communities

  • An ambition that new ‘zero carbon ready’ homes delivered under our new system will not require any future retrofitting.


Altough these aspirations seem to be widely welcome, common concerns of planning experts include:

  • What is the evidence that the UK's planning system is actually broken?  The suggestion is the issue is actually in delivery.  For example, 90% of planning applications are actually approved.  Of these, in the last ten years over 2.5 million homes were consented but only 1.5 million homes were built.  Last year over 371,000 applications were approved but only 241,000 homes built.

  • Given Local Authorities across the country are already facing significant challenges, further impacted by COVID-19, how do LAs resource themselves to meet the requirements outlined in the White Paper?
  • At what level will the Infrastructure Levy be set?  How will it cover aspects taken account of current S106 agreements, such as employment and training?  S106 fees currently cross-fund indifivual appplications - will this be possible going forward?

  • How long will it actually take to implement the reforms? 

  • Although sustainability is said to be at the heart of the white paper, how will it be enforced? 


It would be great to hear your thoughts on the white paper and as additional detail is released by the MHCLG.