Following the cabinet reshuffle and the return of MPs to parliament, the summer’s talk of further change to the planning system has bubbled to the surface. This afternoon, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles made a housing and planning statement to the House of Commons.
He announced a series of investments, including £200 million for new high-quality rented homes and £300 million to bring 5,000 empty homes back into use and increase affordable housing. There will be the opportunity for developers to renegotiate the affordable housing element of Section 106 agreements, where they can prove it would make a development commercially unviable. There will also be a relaxation of permitted development rights, which will allow householders and businesses to build extensions with fewer restrictions.
A distinction should be made between planning decisions made for individual properties, and the business of planning for whole areas and communities. It was the latter that was of most interest to us and the 230,000 people who joined our campaign on the National Planning Policy Framework last year.
We’re just six months into the Government’s new planning framework and local authorities are busy updating their local plans. We’re glad that the Government has recognised the NPPF as the guiding framework, and that it needs time to take effect, and note that there are 400,000 homes with planning permission waiting to be built and permissions are up since the new planning framework was introduced earlier this year. We also welcome the confirmation that Green Belt policy remains unchanged. The renewed focus on brownfield land marks a great opportunity for smart growth to deliver benefits for people, the economy and the environment.
We’ll be looking closely at what has been proposed today, and will be keeping a close eye on the details as they develop.