2020 is shaping up to be a real year of change for the industry. You’ll no doubt have seen how our article pages have been swamped with stories about the Future Homes Standard and proposed Part L changes. Now it’s the turn of planning policy to come under the spotlight.
Robert Jenrick, an MP largely unheard of until landing the role of Secretary of State at MHCLG, has confirmed he intends to publish a Planning White Paper in the first half of this year.
He’s previously gone on record to say this will be an ‘ambitious document’ that will bring ‘radical reform’ to the planning system but has so far been very light on details.
Many expect this White Paper will aim to tackle several key pinch-points in our current planning system, focusing on speeding up the system, making the whole process simpler and promoting better design.
It’s not without drawbacks though, with many believing the only way of achieving such tough goals will be to relax the rules protecting our Green Belts.
This new commitment was announced last week when Jenrick unveiled a report by the not-very-well-named Building Better Building Beautiful Commission. The Living With Beauty report is a forerunner for what we can expect to see in the Planning White Paper later this year, and the subsequent National Planning Policy Framework.
Several housebuilders have already spoken out against this report, claiming it focuses on the planning failures of decades past without any detailed discussion into modern day housing estates and what needs to change there.
Despite this, the report gives us plenty of clues about where Jenrick is planning on steering us, over the coming years.
For example, one of the 45 ‘Policy Propositions’ of the Living with Beauty report is to ‘Say No To Ugliness’. Quite a subjective statement, but it’s suggesting planning departments should be given more support in turning down developments that aren’t in-keeping with their surroundings. The report even suggests the most beautiful development designs could be fast-tracked through the system.
Another policy is to ‘Localise the National Model Design Code’. There are pros and cons to this. In an ideal world you would want a Cornish housebuilder to be given different guidance to someone in the centre of Newcastle, but how localised should you go? And is this keeping in the spirit of making the process simpler?
There’s also ‘empower communities’. Making the planning process more transparent, having more information publicly available online and giving residents more opportunity and sway to decide what gets built in their communities.
The report also encourages the recycling of old buildings instead of razing and rebuilding. It suggests life cycle sustainability should be considered when redeveloping existing sites, instead of basing the decision solely on cost and time.
If the ambitions of this Living With Beauty document make it through into the White Paper, our planning system is certainly going to feel shockwaves. The bigger question for now is, how many of these proposals will be brushed under the carpet before the White Paper is released?
Keeping in mind that Building Regulations are also going through changes in the coming year, both the design of our future homes and the neighbourhoods they’re built in could look very different in a very short space of time.
We’re keeping a close eye on this and will release more news on planning policy changes later this year.