Prime minister David Cameron has given councils a deadline of 2017 for producing local plans, covering house building and wider infrastructure, after which the Government will intervene.
The prospect of losing control over the local plan, which outlines the local strategy in relation to housing, economy, community facilities and infrastructure over a period of time, has raised concerns among planning authorities.
And the news comes after councils complained of difficulties finding the necessary strategic infrastructure funding to support the government's ambitious house building plans with roads and other transport links. Although recent announcements regarding the devolution of business rates have changed the financial landscape.
At present almost one in five councils do not have an up to date plan and of the 82% of councils that have published them, only 65% have fully adopted them.
David Cameron called for a housebulding 'crusade'
Mr Cameron has confirmed the Government will ensure plans are produced for councils if they fail to meet the 2017 deadline, a warning first outlined in the Treasury’s July document Fixing the foundations.
He unveiled the proposals ahead of the publication of the Housing and Planning Bill, which the government hopes will help deliver one million homes by 2020.
The Bill sets out plans to boost homebuilding and home ownership including:
- automatic planning permission in principle on brownfield sites
- planning reforms to support small builders – placing a new duty on councils to help allocate land to people who want to build their own home
- selling off high value vacant assets – which will be reinvested in building new affordable homes
The government has also launched a £10m Starter Homes fund. Councils can bid for a share of the cash, which would help facilitate new starter homes.
Mr Cameron said: ‘My government will do everything it can to help people buy a place of their own – at the heart of this is our ambition to build one million new homes by 2020.
'Many areas are doing this already – and this is great – but we need a national crusade to get homes built and everyone must play their part
‘Councils have a key role to play in this by drawing up their own local plans for new homes by 2017. But if they fail to act, we’ll work with local people to produce a plan for them.’
This has raised concerns among district planning authorities about local control, with the District Councils' Network (DCN) reiterating calls for reform of the planning system.
Stephen Brown, director of the DCN, welcomed moves to streamline the planning process but added: ‘It is vitally important that district councils, which are close to communities and have built up years of experience and trust, remain in charge of Local Plans.
‘We also hope ministers and officials will build on the recent joint submission from the DCN and County Councils Network on streamlining the local planning system.
‘This sets out a very pragmatic and flexible way for delivering housing growth – a proposal that is fully in line with the broader devolution and national economic agendas.
‘Among its key benefits are that it would deliver cross-boundary strategic planning across functional economic and strategic housing market areas, incentivise plan-making and firmly link local growth with strategic infrastructure.
‘It also makes plans shorter and easier to understand while reducing the risks and costs for developers and local and central government.’
The document outlines proposals to provide authorities with incentives to bring forward plans by
- forging links with infrastructure funding via LEPs and emerging devolution deals
- extending rewards for planning delivery on plans
- enabling strategic planning powers and devolving incentives