How councils could make use of promised new planning freedoms
The Government has kept quiet on how it sees new planning freedoms for councils operating in practice. Experts believe the legislation could help facilitate novel moves to increase housing provision.
Section 154 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 took effect on 13 July. This allows councils to request ‘planning freedoms’ in return for committing to increases in housing provision. The Act gives local councils the right to request changes to the planning system. Authorities can request a scheme that adjusts specified planning provisions in order to facilitate an increase in the amount of housing in the area concerned.
To trigger change, the Secretary of State has to be satisfied that there is a need for a significant increase in housing in the area. The modifications should show how they would contribute to such an increase and that adequate consultation has been carried out.
The Government has given little indication as to how it intends these rights to be exercised. However, the Department for Communities and Local Government’s prospectus for garden village, town and city proposals appears to hint at one potential use of the measure. The prospectus states that in exchange for guaranteed housing delivery, the government will work with authorities to deliver planning freedoms that support housing growth. This would include ensuring that there is greater ability to resist speculative residential planning applications and to continue protecting the green belt.
Mixed opinions have surfaced on whether this will be an effective means of increasing housing supply. It has also raised the concern that this portrays planning as the problem in terms of housing delivery, rather than the solution.