It’s plain and simple: planning needs reform

 It’s plain and simple: planning needs reform

Planning policy isn’t perfect, a fact that is broadly accepted across the industry. It is a multi-faceted and complex topic area that, ultimately, has the potential to impact many people’s lives. But despite ongoing planning reviews and reforms, there remain a number of intrinsic shortfalls, restrictions, and delays associated with the planning system.

Luke Thrumble, Head of Planning Consultancy at Glenny LLP comments: “The review of local plans and adoption of new local plans takes far too long in our experience. Target dates are rarely met, and developers are often left in limbo whilst local plans are reviewed and consulted upon over and over again.”

Keith Brelsford, who heads up Glenny’s Residential Development Agency agrees, “The lack of up-to-date local plans is a serious issue with reviews moving at a glacial pace, which is reinforcing the sense of frustration and inordinate delay in bringing applications forward, particularly with the cost that this then involves.”

It’s widely accepted that the ability to make simple changes to consented developments is often not easy or swift. Once a development has been granted planning permission, attention often wanes. In reality, however, it is this detailed design stage that really needs engagement from councils to ensure the delivery of developments in a timely manner.

“There is a creeping politicisation of the planning system with local councillors more interested in re-election. For example, there are “no votes in development” for local councillors to support new housing,” says Keith.

While councils have target deadlines to deal with matters, these are rarely hit. Ultimately, if a council misses its target deadline, there is often little that a developer can do to force the matter other than wait patiently. Whilst, technically, appealing to the Planning Inspectorate is an option, it’s a time-consuming and often costly option.

Luke says, “There is obviously no simple fix to this but resourcing across planning functions nationally should be looked at as a priority.”

Notwithstanding the above, there are some positives to report. Local authorities are, gradually, becoming more agile, flexible, and commercially minded post-pandemic. There does seem a desire, from many local authorities and senior planning officers, to get developments moving forward, and despite the planning frustrations, there are many important, exciting schemes being approved.

But for most businesses involved in the delivery of housing, planning remains one of the biggest barriers to deal with and there’s no denying it is exacerbating affordability in some areas as the supply of new consents and lack of housing under development continues to fuel house prices.

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