Queen's Speech - A Planning Perspective

As the Queen's speech is delivered to Parliament, Adam White, Principal Planner reflects on how the new legislation might affect the Planning system as a whole.

The Queen’s Speech was delivered to Parliament on 10th May 2022. Within the speech, whilst no mention was made of the Planning Bill, which was included in the 2021 Queen’s Speech, a new Levelling Up bill was announced, with the aim of “driving local growth, empowering local leaders to regenerate their areas, and ensuring that everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success. The planning system will be reformed to give residents more involvement in local development.”

The main planning elements within the Bill are as follows:

  • Unlocking new powers for local authorities to bring empty premises back into use and instigate rental auctions of vacant commercial properties in town centres and on high streets.
  • Strengthening neighbourhood planning and digitalising the system to make local plans easier to find, understand and engage with; by making it easier for local authorities to get local plans in place, we will limit speculative development.

It is also clear that the Government will no longer pursue legally required housing targets, and a push for more localism, with “street votes” on some planning matters, is on the agenda.

Additionally, a locally set, non-negotiable levy is proposed in order to deliver infrastructure that communities need, such as housing, schools, GPs and roads and introducing a new approach to environmental assessments in the planning system.

Details on how these measures will work are currently unknown.  For example, the way in which local authorities can force out empty shops to be let out has not been detailed and it is unclear how Permitted Development rights for the change of use of vacant shops will be impacted by this proposal.

The strengthening of the Local Plan and neighbourhood planning process can result in much needed improvements to the way in which Local Plans are made. By digitising the system and providing more opportunities for engagement, local residents can be more involved in the planning process at each stage. However, there is the risk that, by focusing more on digitising the system, there would be some people who would be left behind in consultations, particularly those who have either no access or poor access to the Internet. Allowing Local Authorities to get local plans in place can also serve to speed up the planning process and remove elements of uncertainty where Local Authorities have plans which either are, or are about to become, out of date.

In terms of the proposed levy, there is the risk that, depending on the payment that would need to be made, some developments will become unviable. Additionally, no mention is made on how the proposed new levy relates to the current Community Infrastructure Levy and whether the new levy will serve as a replacement for this or how this will impact on Section 106 agreements, although it is believed this is the intention.

At this stage, it is too early to tell exactly how the proposed legislation will impact the planning system on the whole, given that no legislation has actually been put forward to Parliament. Whilst there is the potential that the proposed legislation could result in improvements to the planning system, there are areas of uncertainty which could be negatively impacted by the changes.  However, it is clear that the proposed legislation is a significant back track on the Government’s Planning White Paper with virtually all the major reforms now being dropped.

David Jones – Managing Director of Evans Jones commented:

‘Whilst Boris stated that the planning system is broken and unfit for purpose, it appears that he is not carrying his party with him and back benchers perhaps worried about middle England voters have significantly watered down the sweeping changes set out in the planning white paper publicised in 2020. We thus have further tinkering with the system, with planning yet again being a political football with no real appetite to address deep routed issues within the system."

If you require any advice on how the proposed legislation affects your development proposals or require assistance with any other planning matters please contact mark.campbell@evansjones.co.uk