BUDGET 2011: Planning relaxation ‘will add to confusion’

The Chancellor pledged to ease the grip on planning control with local authorities told to adopt a presumption in favour of sustainable development and abandon brownfield targets.

Ending targets such as density and percentage of new residential units that must be built on brownfield land each year is designed to encourage more family housing.

The presumption in favour of development is taken as a sign Osborne is concerned the localism agenda may result in nimby-minded councils not making planning decisions or refusing applications.

Jon Suckley, associate at HOW Planning in Manchester, said: "The headline of presumption in favour of sustainable development will be welcomed by landowners and developers. The planning system is seen by many to be complex and slow and a change in approach will hopefully instill confidence for planning applications for new development to be made.

"It is understood that this new proactive approach will be design and sustainability led and until the Government's emerging Green Paper is released, the full detail of the new approach is unknown. Whilst the presumption in favour of sustainable development will be widely supported, design and sustainability are wide ranging topics and the full detail of the new approach – as presented in the emerging Green Paper – will be important to ensure that it does not lose its objective of promoting development.

"It will also be interesting to understand how this new approach will align with the Government's localism agenda which has created wide scale debate on the implications it will create for the efficiency of the planning system."

Bernadette McQuillan, senior planner at CB Richard Ellis, said: "Whilst measures that remove delay and reduce uncertainty should be welcomed, it shouldn't be forgotten that the prize of securing planning permission also creates development value.

"It is assumed that the presumption in favour of sustainable development will be introduced in the awaited National Planning Policy Framework. Whilst the presumption in favour of development is a positive step, the further suggestion that the use of brownfield land will be dictated by the local community will only lead to confusion and a rash of appeals adding to the workload of councils.

"Despite suggestions to the contrary, the Big Society initiative in its current form continues to run the risk of empowering the better informed and influential minority within society to challenge almost all new development, halting or delaying much needed growth."

Nigel McGurk, managing director of Ainscough Strategic Land, said: "Whilst the general positive thrust is welcomed, without the backing of meaningful policy, the Chancellor's announcements regarding the planning system seem glib at best.

"The biggest challenge now facing planning officers, developers and local authorities is the lack of coherent policy and today's announcements need to result in practical direction. Gearing up for growth and a presumption in favour of development might be sound rhetoric, but it's how this is put into practice that will bring about meaningful change.

"A blanket statement about maintaining the green belt demonstrates a lack of understanding of what's actually going on. We live in a dynamic world and some of the country's green belt simply fails to do the job it was originally established to do many decades ago. Many pro-active local authorities have already recognised the essential need for appropriate green belt release to allow for the sustainable development of our towns and cities. The Chancellor's bland political statement is a backwards step that fails to reflect reality.

"While the Chancellor mentioned that councils are spending more on planning, there was no mention of the vastly increased cost to the private sector, where good money is being spent negotiating excessive red tape, rather than directly on regeneration. Addressing this issue is urgent and would benefit the public and private sectors alike."

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UPDATE: adds comment from Nigel McGurk, managing director of Ainscough Strategic Land

By Ed