Thank you for contacting me about the newly announced planning reforms.
Our planning system needs to work for those who use it to make sure new homes, businesses and vital infrastructure are not held back by outdated, complicated and time-consuming bureaucracy. It takes an average of five years for an application for residential development to go through the planning system before building can even begin. This cannot be right for our communities who want homes to live in, places to work, and schools and hospitals built.
This is why radical and necessary reforms are being brought in to cut arbitrary red tape while maintaining standards and protecting our Green Belt and greenfield sites. Under the new proposals and through local democratic agreement, land will be designated under the categories of growth, renewal or protection. Every area will also need to have a local plan in place for building more homes, helping local communities drive change and decide what gets built and where. Local housing plans should be developed and agreed in 30 months, rather than the seven years it often takes. A fast-track system for beautiful homes will also be created and new streets are to be lined with trees, helping make and keep places beautiful.
Land designated for growth will allow new homes, schools, shops and hospitals to be permitted as long as they meet local design and quality standards. Renewal areas will be provided with a 'permission in principle' approach subject to checks and balances with an emphasis on high quality that meets design standards. Our heritage sites and green spaces will continue to be protected and preserved for the enjoyment of local communities and future generations, with development taking place on brownfield sites.
I also welcome that the new rule-based planning system will make the best use of technology to increase transparency and accessibility, and save taxpayer money being spent on outdated procedures. A new and simpler national levy will replace developer contributions, which are often the source of major delays, and allow more funds to be raised for social infrastructure to the benefit of communities. The reforms will also make the construction sector more efficient, helping small and medium sized housebuilders compete with large developers. I have also been assured that key workers, local people and first-time buyers will be front and centre in the First Homes scheme, which will provide a 30 per cent discount on the purchase of a home. The consultation on planning for the future has been launched and is now open to views from the public, businesses and local government.
I am pleased that, as part of the consultation, the Government is proposing to maintain the neighbourhood planning system while finding ways to improve it by using digital tools and by reflecting community preferences about design. I know there is also interest in extending and adapting neighbourhood planning so that small areas, such as individual streets, can set their own rules for the kind of development they are happy to see. It is encouraging that over 1,000 neighbourhood plans have passed through referendums since 2011, and I do hope to see more community involvement as the planning system overall is simplified and democratised.
The aim of the new proposals is to make our planning system work for our communities and create much needed new jobs in construction. All new homes will need to be zero carbon ready, which will deliver on our net carbon zero commitment, improve on environmental and energy standards and avoid the need for retrofitting.
The Government is confident that the reforms will deliver beautiful homes people want to live in, places people want to work in and protect areas we as a nation need to safeguard for our children and posterity.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP