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Media Briefing Note: Government Proposals on Housing and Growth

06 September 2012

LONDON, 6 September 2012 - The Government has today announced proposals aimed at boosting house building in the UK to assist in economic recovery.

A significant number of proposals have been made, including renewed attempts to reduce planning delays.

Of particular note are the proposals:

  • Bringing new categories of commercial and business development into the planning regime for Major Infrastructure, making it possible for significant schemes to be considered and determined at a national rather than local level.
  • Introducing legislation next year to allow the planning inspectorate to reduce the obligations within Section 106 agreements to deliver affordable homes, in order to make schemes viable.  This is separate to the recently announced consultation on the renegotiation of non viable Section 106 agreements entered into prior to April 2010.
  • Allowing planning applications to be decided by the planning inspectorate if the local authority has a track record of consistently poor performance in the speed or quality of its decisions.
  • A new first track procedure for some small commercial planning appeals.
  • Introducing permitted development rights to enable change of use from commercial to residential use.

Michael Gallimore, Head of Planning at Hogan Lovells, commented:

"It is clear that the Government sees a clear linkage between the delivery of more homes and economic recovery.  The proposal to bring large housing schemes within the decision making regime for major infrastructure could certainly speed up decisions on those projects.  However it is difficult to align this initiative with the Government's localism mantra.  The suggestion that the Planning Inspectorate will be able to "set aside" existing Section 106 agreements in favour of a new agreement with fewer affordable homes gives rise to some interesting issues in circumstances where Section 106 agreements are contractually binding as between developer and local planning authority.

"Viability certainly seems to be very much on the Government's radar – it would be good to see CIL introduced into this debate in circumstances where the emerging CIL regime is clearly having a significant impact on viability for many schemes".

Claire Dutch, partner at Hogan Lovells said:

"Although today's package of measures appears to be another knee jerk reaction by the government to kick start the economy it  will be welcomed by the development industry as a step in the right direction to address the fundamental issue of development viability.  It will be interesting to see how many developers apply to the Planning Inspectorate to seek a reduction in affordable housing and whether the Planning Inspectorate will be resourced sufficiently to cope with its extended role".

ENDS

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