The Queen's Speech this week set out that rather than a separate Planning Bill, significantly scaled back changes to the planning system will now take place as part of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill.

While details will follow in the regulations and updates to National Policy, we tentatively welcome some proposals in the speech and the Bill, including:

  • confirmation that some of the most concerning proposals previously set out, such as zoning, nationally-set mandatory housing targets and permission in principle, have been dropped, thanks in part to pressure put on the Government by organisations such as Friends of the Lake District.
  • that the lighter reforms now proposed still seek to enable local people to have more involvement in the planning process
  • measures aimed at helping to bring empty buildings back into use, including what appears to be provision for Council Tax charges to be increased by up to 100% on dwellings occupied periodically, such as second homes
  • strengthening neighbourhood planning, including Neighbourhood Priorities Statements allowing local priorities to be set out, including those relating to the natural environment
  • greater priority for the environment and the requirement for Environmental Outcomes Reports that will include consideration of the landscape, wildlife and cultural heritage.

We particularly welcome the proposed new requirement that local plans and other planning documents must ensure that the use and development of land will contribute to the mitigation of, and adaption to, climate change.

We remain concerned about certain aspects, including:

- the conflict between seeking to make the local plan process quicker and simpler whilst also trying to enable greater public involvement

- the conflict between seeking to make the environmental assessment process quicker and simpler whilst also trying to enhance the priority given to the environment

- the lack of detail on how Environmental Outcome Statements will be prepared and how they will ensure positive outcomes for the environment

- the indication that national policies will now have more weight and, crucially, may outweigh locally-set policies

We expect public consultations on the detail of the changes over the coming months.

You can view the Bill, which includes several other aspects in addition to planning matters, here