Is Liz Truss failing to plan?

As the government announces the scrapping of top-down housing targets, David Jones looks at the effect on new housing and development.

It remains to be seen whether the Government will follow through with such a radical change or indeed whether the recently announced Investment Zones will come to fruition.

As a planner promoting schemes across the country, the recent announcements yet again demonstrate the Government's continued willingness to pander to an agenda based on 'NYBMYism' promoted by the popular press and vocal back benchers.

The Government has consistently failed to address housing need and failed to create a system which properly plans for new housing and commercial development.

As Boris quick correctly stated in his foreward to the Planning White Paper of August 2020 "The Planning system is broken and no longer fit for purpose". Regrettably recent announcements from the new PM fail to address under resourced planning authorities., affordable housing, provision of employment land or indeed support for our ailing high streets.

The PM confirmed that the proposed Investment Zones will create expedited planning permission for mixed use development in areas where people want development. The key determinant is "where people want development". Having promoted hundreds of schemes over the years it is a sad fact that the settled community rarely want change and those objecting to new development are disproportionately heard over and above those who need new housing or seek places to work, play or be educated.

This Government, like all its predecessors have failed to tackle the real 'elephant in the room' (Green Belt). A land protection policy which is long overdue a root and branch review and re-assessment.

As a planner, there is nothing I would welcome more than a system which properly planned for growth, that however requires the speedy production of regional development plans/local plans and the ability to change and adapt as circumstances dictate. Development plans which take five years to reach adoption are by any measure unfit for purpose.

Likewise, a system which relies exclusively upon the planning inspectorate to deliver development via planning appeal is equal unfit, however, without an efficient planning system delivering developemnt plans which deliver growth in a timely manner then we are left with no option but to deliver new development via planning appeal rather than proper planning.

If the Government are serious about speeding up the delivery of planning permission, they should ensure local authorities and planning inspectorate are properly resourced, maintain housing targets, appropriately capture land value uplift, ensuring development is built to the highest environmental and sustainability standards and ensure the voice of those seeking new homes and employment land has equal standing to that of the settled community.

Investment Zones risk diverting resource away from other areas of towns and cities. My suspicion is that Investment Zones will in all likelihood simply re-designate sites which are already in the pipeline for development. New Investment zones are unlikely to quickly deliver any meaningful uplift in housing numbers or the supply of employment land.

Whilst lighter touch planning and environmental controls coupled with various tax breaks are not unwelcome, the jury is out as to whether the Government's Investment Zone aspirations will in practice bring about meaningful growth.#

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