DCLG announces likely autumn planning reforms

Out-Law News | 30 Jun 2015 | 1:16 pm | 2 min. read

A series of planning reforms is likely to be outlined in the autumn, an official at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has said.

The proposals include measures to speed up the delivery of local development plans, reforms to the community infrastructure levy (CIL) regime and changes to the compulsory purchase process. Further detail has also been provided in relation to the government's Starter Homes and Right to Build initiatives.

Speaking at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors' Viability in Planning and Development conference in London last week, DCLG director of planning Ruth Stainer confirmed that the government intends to introduce a new Housing Bill to parliament in around September. As previously announced in the Queen's speech last month, the Housing Bill will provide the statutory framework to support the Starter Homes initiative, through which first time buyers under 40 years old are set to be offered a 20% discount on their homes, paid for by exempting developers from infrastructure payments.

Prime minister David Cameron promised before the general election that a Conservative government would aim to deliver 200,000 'starter homes' by 2020. In her speech last week, Stainer confirmed this target and announced that the maximum prices for starter homes would be £250,000 outside London and £450,000 within London. Stainer said developers of starter homes would be exempted from CIL and section 106 infrastructure contributions, but that infrastructure contributions could be voluntarily provided. Stainer also confirmed that, whilst letting and sale restrictions would apply to starter homes for five years, they would then be able to be sold at market value.

A government briefing note (103-page / 1.0 MB PDF) accompanying the Queen's speech had said the Housing Bill would "take forward the Right to Build, requiring local planning authorities to support custom and self-builders registered in their area in identifying suitable plots of land to build or commission their own home". Stainer announced that £150 million would be set aside to support the Right to Build and that the government would use the Housing Bill to introduce a statutory register for brownfield land, as previously proposed in a consultation in January.

Delegates were told that measures to speed up local plans and neighbourhood plan making, initially earmarked for inclusion within the Housing Bill, would be introduced instead in an Enterprise Bill in October or November. Stainer said the Enterprise Bill would also introduce CIL reform, particularly for large sites, and reform of section 106 agreements, including a mechanism for resolving disputes.

Stainer also confirmed that the government intends to press ahead with reforms to compulsory purchase processes proposed in a DCLG consultation (39-page / 489 KB PDF) in the spring. The proposals, which Stainer said had been well received, included setting statutory targets and timescales for confirming compulsory purchase orders; clarifying existing compulsory purchase guidance; and extending the minimum notice period for making entry of acquired premises.

Planning expert Richard Ford of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, who spoke at the conference said: "This confirmation from DCLG is useful in terms of highlighting key priorities, though more detail is needed on simplifying neighbourhood planning and local planning, which was also highlighted."

"There is also a need to confirm the position of s106BA applications and s106BC appeals due to come to an end by April 2016," said Ford. "Further announcements on Garden Cities would be very welcome too. It was also made clear that CIL reform, particularly for large schemes, were key priorities. The Enterprise Bill expected later in the autumn may contain some of these things."