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The planning system needs more than tweaking to end the housing crisis


Statistics published recently show that both new homes starts and completions are increasing, but are still some way short of what is required. So it is inevitable that the debate will continue about whether recent reforms to planning just need more time or whether further reforms are required.

History shows that new Governments like to make their mark on the planning system, but it is telling that none of the major parties are talking about doing to planning law what the National Planning Policy Framework did to planning guidance. Neither is anybody talking about formalising a return to regional or sub-regional planning (despite calls for city-region devolution).

If then the next Government will only tinker at the edges of the existing system, how can that system be made more effective in allocating more land in development plans and determining more planning applications more quickly?

This, I would contend, is actually quite straightforward, at least on paper.

Firstly, public resistance to the allocation of land and the approval of planning applications has to be overcome, which requires politicians to show real leadership. They have to lead the debate, not just follow opinion, on the need for greenfield sites and selective Green Belt releases.

Secondly, Councils need to have the ability to put development plans in place and approve planning applications. A report by the National Audit Office has shown that planning and development services have been subjected to the deepest local government cuts between 2010 and 2015.

Tweaks and tinkering in planning are as inevitable as swings in the political pendulum, but what we really need to change are two things of more substance: the rhetoric and the resourcing.

Written by Sam Stafford | Posted on 16th March 2015

Sam Stafford is a Chartered Town Planner and Strategic Land Director at Barratt Developments.

Website: http://samuelstafford.blogspot.co.uk/