Government unveils sweeping local planning reforms


Automatic planning permission could be granted for many brownfield sites in England under a new zoning system, it has emerged.

While  the Government aim to devolve planning powers in London and Manchester, elsewhere ministers could get powers to seize disused land and fast track major housing projects.

The proposals are part of the Government's Fixing the Foundation's package, released as a policy paper today.

The Government has already sent ripples through local government planning by vowing to get 90% of suitable brownfield land ready for development by 2020 to help build at least 200,000 starter homes.

This prospect that has raised concerns among council leaders there may not be the strategic infrastructure funding available through local levies to provide for such developments, with one council leader describing the system as 'fatally flawed'.

Under the proposals new sanctions could be brought in for councils that do not deal with planning applications quickly enough and the government would be able to intervene in councils' local development plans.

Business Secretary Sajid said: 'We'll make sure the homes that are needed get built – if a council fails to produce a suitable local plan, we’ll have it done it for them.'

Transport Network sources at two major county councils have claimed that local government is already being put under pressure to boost housing stock by the Planning Inspectorate, with local plans rejected for not aiming to build enough houses, despite a lack of funds to pay for necessary infrastructure such as roads and schools.

The Treasury told the media that following the approval of MPs, the new proposals would grant automatic planning permission for developments on 'suitable' brownfield sites under a new 'zonal' system and enhanced compulsory purchase powers would allow more brownfield land to be made available.

Ministers also aim to scrap the need for planning permission in London for developers who want to extend buildings to the height of neighbouring properties.

Mr Javid said that 'new ways' had to be found to speed up housing projects, adding that 'local people will still have control over planning'.

'The point of this is to make sure we build more homes, that local people are still rightly involved in those decisions and we find ways to speed it up. The green belt can be rightly protected. There is plenty of land which is not green belt that we can build on and which is suitable for housing and we need to get on with it. We need to find new ways to encourage it.'

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