Planning system ‘holding us back’, says housing secretary

The Government is working up a national building design guide, according to housing secretary Robert Jenrick, as new developments “come at the expense of beauty and quality.”

On a local level, councils would be told to “design their own applicable guides reflecting local needs” as “what good looks like differs across the UK”.

Speaking on the main stage at the Conservtive Party Conference, Jenrick insisted “the guide will have real clout”.

Meanwhile, in a promise familiar to those in the planning profession, Henrick said he would seek to “simplify” the planning system, as it is “outdated, contradictory… holding us back.”

The proposals would be “the beginning of a planning revolution”.

Henrick also said he would be redoubling efforts to encourage homeownership as “the bulwark of individual freedom, bringing security, dignity and independence”.

The housing secretary announced that from January planning conditions would be eased to allow an extra two storeys to be added to homes, without needing to consult with neighbours. The new rules will apply to both apartment blocks and detached buildings.

Earlier in the day, chair of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, Nicholas Boys-Smith, agreed the planning system had a lack of clarity and certainty, and called for the National Planning Policy Framework to “state as an axiomatic aim that buildings should be beautiful.”

Generally, discussion from Government ministers on housing at the conference was limited to soundbites rather than details on specific policies.

Speaking at an earlier Policy Exchange fringe event, housing minister Esther McVey said the country “has to think in creative ways, we’ve got to start thinking bigger than we were before.”

“The whole planning process from start to finish does need to be sped up,” she said, and pointed to a Government green paper due in the coming months to give clarity on the proposed reform.

“In some regards, the process is complicated and costly. Money should be spent on the product, rather than the process.”

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Henrick wants councils to set their own design guidance, but is happy for people to put 2 extra storeys on your own house or apartment block! What a contradiction and shows the complete lack of awareness the government has in solving the housing crisis!

By Cynical

We just need to be honest – most of the green belt is just not green and is just a line a demarcation line- it needs a complete review

By Stuart wood

This rancid government (and the Labour party, who could have stepped in at any point) have sat idly by as “relaxed” planning laws have been used to wreck Liverpool both architecturally and economically, and criminal gangs have pocketed hundreds of millions of Pounds (perhaps more) from duped overseas investors.

And it’s still not lax enough for them??

By Mike

For once, @Mike is right. If only partly.

But it’s an improvement.

By Sceptical

Whilst planning guidance should not be relaxed (the adding of two storeys is a disgrace), the system does need overhauling as local authorities do not have the expertise to deal with the most basic of applications. I agree with the comments here though, most of our towns and cities have been wrecked by lax planning.

By Acelius

Biggest disaster ….proposal to for housing associations to sell part then full ownership of newly build affordable or social rented homes …..will undermine the building of new homes undermine to basics upon which loans were agreed with banks etc . But on the planning issue what happens to neighbours right to object…cos of loss of light etc

By Graham

if the government was really serious about quality it could consider carefully the “quality” of housing being delivered as a direct consequence of its own freeing up the planning system which is not only resulting in the slums of today but in unfunded demands being placed for example on local schools and other infrastructure. It could make space standards mandatory and up environmental standards but no the development industry will bleat. You only have to look at most new housing to realise that design is pretty low on the average volume house builder’s radar. Upward extensions without the need for permission is another nail in the coffin of a decent urban environment. Perhaps one of the quickest ways to get more development would be to bring its own MPs on message and stop a number of them resisting development at every turn. Resisting development is politically popular and further de-regulation will only result in greater resistance. Awaiting the Green Paper with interest, hope the Policy Exchange is kept well out of it!

By Another cynical planner

Earlier Tory reforms have hollowed out and politicised planning, so they only have themselves to blame. More design quality control is important, but Councils are under so much pressure and lack in house expertise that this is likely to create an even less level playing field and more confusion.

By Gene Walker

Its probably time to drop use of the term ‘Planning’ and be more honest about what it actually is: ‘Land Use Control’, and increasingly a form of Land Value Capture as well.

By UnaPlanner

Yawn. Heard the very same statements made by every single housing secretary since I can’t remember when.

By Dave Javu

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