Promises to deliver new homes of all tenures from the mainstream political parties are welcomed but investment in the planning regime is needed if they are to be achieved, says Karen Cooksley and Colette McCormac, Specialist Planning Lawyers at Winckworth Sherwood. And now is not the time for a radical overhaul of the planning regime but a period of investment and consistency, including a Housing Minister with cabinet responsibility.
Karen Cooksley, a Partner and Head of Planning at Winckworth Sherwood in London said: “The planning regime has seen many changes by past governments, and each takes time for developers and local authorities to understand and implement. The last thing housebuilders and local authorities need is further radical change if they are to meet future promises and demand.”
“What is needed, however, is investment into local authority planning teams, both in numbers of people and skills to meet the growing demand from developers charged with delivering those homes.”
“We would also argue that the next government appoint a housing minister who is knowledgeable and understands the industry and who has cabinet responsibility to champion the delivery of new homes. The post currently is all too often seen as a stepping-stone to a larger cabinet role or a final stop before a career ends.”
Government also needs to recognise that development on public land or by local authorities also needs planning permission, and that can take upwards to two years to secure.
Colette McCormack, a Planning Partner at Winckworth Sherwood added: “Large scale development, whether on public or private land, takes time to deliver and can sometimes be bitterly opposed by local residents and communities.”
“There needs to be a real appetite to deliver housing on a large scale in local authorities including the elected members if they are to deliver on future government promises.”
“Public or brownfield land will typically come with many problems that usually result in pre commencement conditions, for example remediation. The whole process can take upwards of four years to secure permission and discharge conditions with the costs borne by the developer. “
“Many local authorities no longer have a Director of Planning, a senior position that has oversight of planning locally and who a developer can turn to help unlock a delivery problem. Bearing in mind the complexity of the planning system, we would welcome a return of this pivotal role in local authority decision making.”
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