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Developers welcome seismic shift in UK planning system

Developers in the UK can expect a massive shake-up of the planning system, which has basically been unchanged since 1947. Details of the proposed legislation were set out yesterday in the Queen’s Speech marking the re-opening of Parliament.

Changes to the planning system were outlined in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech

For decades developers have submitted planning applications and local councils have decided whether to approve them or not. Now Government is keen to streamline the planning process and allow many more developments to go ahead to address the housing shortage.

Land will be divided in three categories: as protected, growth or renewal. In “growth” areas planning applications will be automatically granted, removing the power of local authorities to turn them down.

Local communities will have a say on the original division into categories, but not on every single planning application. This is a controversial aspect that is likely to be contested by some Conservative councils as well, but the Government’s majority in Parliament is such that it is confident the measures will be approved.

In the Queen’s Speech the Government laid out its reasons for the proposed changes. “Only 41% of local authorities have an up-to-date local plan in place, and updating a local plan takes an average of 7 years”, which shows the current system is not working.

“The current system does not lead to enough homes being built, especially in those places where the need for new homes is the highest” and “as a result of this long-term and persistent undersupply, housing is becoming increasingly expensive”.

Boris Johnson, the prime minister, has said that boosting home ownership is “key to shoring up Tory support” among voters. The Government wants at least 300,000 new homes built every year but also wants to deliver more schools and hospitals at a faster pace.

The Labour party is opposing the proposed changes, which it has called a “developers’ charter”.

The real estate sector has welcomed the plans, which are set to transform the planning system from a slow, document-based one to a digital and more efficient system.

“This year’s Queen’s Speech was one of the most significant in recent history for the sector”, said Melanie Leech, chief executive, British Property Federation. The Government’s plans will create “a seismic shift in how local authorities plan for and deliver new housing, simplifying the process to put an end to inefficiencies and delays”.

The Government’s deregulation drive will be “a catalyst for greater home ownership across the country”, said Russell Gardner, Uk & Ireland head of real estate, EY. “It will be welcomed by developers and homebuyers”.