The Government’s White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’ was published on 6 August. It sets out a package of reforms which together represent the most fundamental change in England’s planning system since the 1947 Town & Country Planning Act.

There now follows a consultation period ending on the 29 October, after which primary and secondary legislation will be required for some elements.

We look at some of the key proposals, what they are intended to achieve, and present our thoughts on what they could mean in practice.

Why is the Government proposing to make changes?

The White Paper sets out changes that the Government is seeking to make to address what it sees as the weaknesses in the current planning system. This is set against the backdrop of its pledge to “build, build, build” and to “level up” the stark variations in prosperity between different parts of the country, as well as to increase international competitiveness post-Brexit.

The proposals follow hot on the heels of the important changes announced in July. These included changes to the Use Class Order, which will come into effect from 1 September 2020, and which amongst other changes will see the existing A1, A2, A3, B1, D1 and D2 use classes replaced with classes E, F1 and F2. There were also changes to prior approval legislation, which introduced new rights to allow for the upward extension of buildings, as well as the right to demolish vacant buildings and replace them with new residential units. More information on the these previously announced changes can be found here. 

The Government also recognises that development has an important part to play in the economic recovery (the construction sector accounts for circa 6% of the UK’s economic output) as the Country comes to terms with, and seeks to address, the impacts of COVID-19. However, the current economic downturn is unique not just in its severity, but also in the scale of permanent, structural change it is likely to precipitate – including how and where we work, live and spend our leisure time. This has huge implications for the type of property that will be required in different locations.

Another key issue is England’s acute housing shortage. This is well documented and successive governments have consistently failed to meet their housing delivery targets. The reasons for this are hotly debated and intensely political.

The Government’s rationale for the proposed overhaul set out in the White Paper explains that it sees the current system as:

  • too complex (for example, the system for developer contributions)
  • lacking certainty
  • lacking transparency in some areas (for example, the basis for assessments of housing need)
  • too lengthy (for example, it cites an average of seven years to adopt a local plan)
  • failing to engage sufficiently across society (the White Paper cites young people in particular)
  • failing to embrace the digital age
  • having insufficient focus on design and quality

 

What is proposed?

The White Paper sets out proposals across three ‘pillars’ – planning for development; beautiful and sustainable places; and infrastructure and connected places. The proposals are extensive and wide-ranging. Below, we summarise the key changes, and give our view on some potential implications.

Perhaps the most fundamental aspect is the shift towards a zoning-style system. This would require local planning authorities (LPAs) to identify land in their Local Plan as falling under one of three categories: Growth, Renewal or Protected:

  • Growth areas suitable for substantial development. Outline approval for development would be automatically secured for forms and types of development specified in the Local Plan. In these areas, development would automatically receive outline planning permission for the principle of development (‘permission in principle’). New settlements, urban extensions, and former industrial/urban regeneration sites would be included in this category (areas of flood risk are specifically excluded). The proposals also mention growth clusters around universities.
  • Renewal areas suitable for some development, such as ‘gentle densification’. This could include infill of residential areas, development in towns and small sites on the edge of villages which are not protected. There would be a statutory presumption in favour of development for the uses specified as being suitable in each area. There would be automatic consent for schemes which meet design and other prior approval requirements.
  • Protected areas where development would be restricted, for example green belts and conservations areas, and where an application for express planning permission would still be required for new development.

For exceptionally large sites such as new towns, the Government also wants to explore a Development Consent Order under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime.

In growth and renewal areas, the Local Plan would set out suitable development uses and limitations on height and/or density. In these areas it would still be possible for a proposal which is different to the plan to come forward (if, for example, local circumstances had changed suddenly, or an unanticipated opportunity arose), but this would require a specific planning application.

The White Paper also suggests a potential alternative approach of combining growth and renewal areas into one category, as well as a broader alternative of limiting automatic permission in principle to land identified for substantial development, with other areas of land determined by the local planning authority and subject to the existing development management process.

Our view on zoning

Under current arrangements, Local Plans already allocate sites for specific uses, in a not dissimilar way to the first two of the three proposed categories. However, the automatic granting of planning permission and ‘permission in principle’ under the proposed system may mean that the ability of local authorities to control development will be much more limited than currently.

Overall, this broad-brush approach to growth, renewal and protected areas makes sense. Uncertainty holds back businesses across sectors, and the development industry is no exception. Creating greater certainty as regards to what will constitute acceptable forms of development looks to be a positive step.

However, the shift away from a case-by-case to a rules-based approach, governed by nationally-set criteria, risks creating a more centralised system that is less accountable at a local level (something which only a few years ago the Government was very keen to move away from). Reducing the democratic process will be challenged if this is seen as a ‘gravy train’ for developers and landowners. Of course, this is an over-simplification as it is a relationship that also involves the consumer, where choice and value for money are as important as quality.

There is also a question mark over how flexible the new system will be in allowing alternative uses if the allocated use does not come forward. This could potentially stifle development, especially in scenarios where a developer wants to construct an unspecified use.

In cities such as London, Cambridge and Oxford large swathes of central urban areas fall within Conservation Areas and will therefore be more than likely fall within the protected category, meaning that new development will require an application for express planning permission, as is the case presently. Will a variety of sub-categories therefore be required in order to fit different area profiles?

We are also concerned that the proposal to grant outline planning permission automatically for sites through the plan-making process could be highly complicated. After all, this is where the parameters of the consent are set and where relevant site-specific conditional requirements and site-level (and time specific) planning obligations are established. Whilst theoretically possible to do at the plan making stage, it will require significant additional resource at local authority level. Alternatively, automatic granting of outline planning permission could get watered down to permission in principle being conveyed by plan allocation as per initiatives brought in by the 2016 Housing and Planning Act.

Big questions remain, such as; If a reformed reserved matters process for agreeing the issues which remain outstanding is to be introduced then how comprehensive will this be and will it, for example, include consideration of matters such as flood risk, drainage, ecology, noise, air quality, and contamination etc?

The suggested approach is not equivalent to zoning elsewhere in the world and does not mean the end for planning applications. Protected areas will still require a ‘normal’ planning applications and some form of reserved matters application will still be needed in growth and renewal areas where outline permission is assumed on allocated sites and if a developer wants to step outside of the allocation, an application could still be submitted.

Above all, however, it will really highlight the primacy of the Local Plan and make it the centre-stage of the process going forward.

Our view on the Green Belt

The proposals do not appear to suggest any changes to the current approach to Green Belt land, with the proposition to classify it within the protected areas, with no mention of a review, although this is equally not ruled out. If however the Government intends to make all Green Belt land sacrosanct, this could be a huge missed opportunity - after all, the UK is not blessed with a huge supply of brownfield land. Therefore, we think there is a case for greater flexibility to review Green Belt policy and make it easier for local authorities to make sustainable development choices, to release such land for growth and to allow the development of our urban centres in a more rounded way than is evident at present.

Indeed, it is unclear how housing needs are going to be met in areas with a strong economy and high affordable housing requirements without a release of land from the Green Belt, especially as Green Belt areas tend to be those where need is highest. There needs to be a commitment to review Green Belt boundaries in areas of higher need, especially if the duty to cooperate is being removed.

Many local authorities where growth has both a regional and national benefit have wrestled with the duty to cooperate and the ‘untouchable’ status afforded to Green Belt. This increases pressure on delivering high density sites on brownfield land. Surely it is time to consider a 2020 view to a 1940s policy?

The White Paper proposes that Local Plans should become shorter and simpler, focusing on local design guidance and clear rules regarding height and density etc. There will be a statutory obligation for LPAs to complete a Local Plan within 30 months, and to adhere to deadlines for various key stages of the process. Local Plans would also be significantly shorter in length, with a greater emphasis on visual material and the National Planning Policy Framework would become the primary source of policies for development management.

The White Paper also proposes the retention of Neighbourhood Plans, stating that they have “a crucial role in producing required design guides” but that the Government will “consider whether their content should become more focused”.

Our view on reforming Local Plans

The process for approving planning policy, using the Local Plans in their current form, is undoubtedly lengthy. We are now in a world where the speed of change is accelerating through technological advance, the increasing urgency of the sustainability agenda, as well as the immense social and economic change resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, we welcome the proposals to speed up the plan-making system.

The 30-month timetable feels ambitious but realistic, although it is not clear what sanctions there will be if a Council does not meet the timetable.

However, the idea that development management policies can be condensed to the degree being suggested does not feel so realistic. Whilst there is a lot of repetition between Local Plan policies and national advice, it is also the case that different urban areas face different economic, social and environmental challenges and bespoke local development plan policies are sometimes needed to tackle such challenges. Overall, however, the idea of adopting a more standardised approach for all LPAs could work and should assist shorter development plans and clarity over application requirements.

While a more responsive approach is welcome, planning policy needs to be made in a considered way that allows local communities to be consulted and to input their views. It is important that Local Plans continue to engage with local communities. Will the new Local Plans and the retention of neighbourhood plans be sufficient to ensure this?

It will also be more important than ever for developers to participate in Local Plan consultation. Failure to do so may prevent the development of land for a considerable period of time as significant emphasis will be placed on the uses set out within the growth areas.

The White Paper proposes a more streamlined, faster process for decision-making, with firm deadlines. It suggests achieving this through a combination of digitalisation, shorter and more standardised planning applications, data and documentation.

LPAs would have clear incentives to determine applications within statutory time limits. Failure to do so could involve refunding the planning fees, and even deeming some types of applications to have been granted planning permission if deadlines are missed.

Our view on faster decision-making

While the proposals seem to want to encourage local stakeholder participation at the plan making stage, they do suggest less of a role for such parties at the decision-making stage. The proposed process will place more power in the hands of planning officers and potentially increase the use of delegated powers, rather than planning committees. This is potentially a good thing, as a lot of time is wasted at the political level. Delegated decision making, especially where the principle of development has been established, is also welcomed.

Incentivising LPAs to push through decisions within statutory time periods, and offering automatic decisions, is welcomed where it is in the client’s favour. However, it would not be welcomed where it could force the hand of officers to make a decision when negotiations are ongoing beyond the statutory time period, thus ruling out making amendments during the assessment period. We hope, therefore, that extension of time agreements will remain possible under the new system

If determination timelines are to be fixed, we think that response times for consultees also need to be fixed with late comments rejected. Authorities and technical consultees will need additional resourcing to meet stricter timescales.

The summary-style planning statement is a good idea, but we have reservations about how this will work in practice and specifically how technical impacts will be assessed.

We welcome the move towards digitalisation, although significant investment in technology and training will be required across all planning sectors to enable this across the entire system. Widespread homeworking as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how much can be done online.

Proper resourcing of the local authorities will be key to achieving faster decision making, the White Paper signals an intent to do so and this is to be strongly supported.

The White Paper proposes that Local Plans are subject to a single, simple, statutory ‘sustainable development’ test, replacing the existing tests of soundness. This would mean the abolition of the sustainability appraisal system and the duty to cooperate test (a slimmed down assessment of deliverability would be retained) as part of the drive to reduce the timeframe to approve Local Plans.

The White Paper also suggests an alternative option of reforming rather than removing the tests of soundness, for example, by becoming less prescriptive about the need to demonstrate deliverability, and local authorities could be required to identify a stock of reserve sites.

Our view on duty to cooperate

The duty to cooperate is currently a legal requirement for all LPAs and County Councils in England (as well as a number of other public bodies) when preparing a Local Plan. It applies where development would have a significant impact across at least two planning areas, and requires relevant policies to be set out, as well as ongoing engagement between the relevant LPAs.

This is a bold move and we welcome its removal, as the current system is clearly not working. There has been much recent evidence of Local Plan failures on account of the failure to discharge its requirements (although most plans managed to pass it), resulting in a considerable waste of resources.

However, market areas do not stop conveniently at local authority boundaries, and there needs to be strategic thinking across markets. What is not clear is what might replace it, and how cross-boundary issues will be addressed in the future, including where unmet needs should be transferred to neighbouring areas.

Our view on sustainability appraisal

Abolishing the sustainability appraisal is also a rather bold move which could have adverse consequences on growth areas. Could it also lead to development locations being driven by political aspirations rather than sustainable objectives? Not everyone will embrace the idea that growth is needed.

Our view on reforming rather than removing the tests of soundness

The alternative suggestion that plans no longer need to demonstrate deliverability seems illogical – such a move would be likely to undermine the effectiveness of local plans. The need to demonstrate deliverability is now more rather than less important. Introducing reserve sites would have its benefits but would remove clarity and certainty. Local authorities should both test deliverability and have reserve sites.

The White Paper proposes a new ‘Infrastructure Levy’ to replace the current CIL developer contributions and Section 106 agreements, and to obviate the need to consider site viability.

The Government’s preferred option is to introduce a nationally-set flat-rate charge, applicable to all use classes. This could either be a single national rate, or area-specific rates. It would be charged on the final value of a development on occupation (or based on an assessment of the sales value where the development is not sold). The rate would be based on the value at the date of planning permission, but would be levied at the point of occupation.

There would be a minimum threshold below which the Levy would not be charged (and would only be charged on the proportion of the value that exceeded the threshold), to prevent low value development becoming unviable.

As a minimum, affordable housing provision supported through developer contributions would be maintained at current levels, with the stated ambition that current levels are exceeded.

Revenues would continue to be collected and spent locally, and local authorities would be allowed to borrow against Infrastructure Levy revenues to forward fund infrastructure delivery.

The new Levy will capture changes of use through permitted development rights, even if there is no increase in floorspace, meaning new housing created through conversion from commercial will now be included.

Stated benefits for the proposed Levy include:

  • provide greater certainty over developer contributions
  • increase revenue levels nationally
  • better sensitivity to economic downturns
  • reduced risk for developers
  • reduce cashflow difficulties for SME developers

The White Paper also provides a number of alternative options where the Infrastructure Levy could be optional and would be set by individual local authorities. However, the White Paper does not anticipate strong take-up of this.

Our view on a new system for funding infrastructure and affordable housing

The current system is undoubtedly highly complex and lacks certainty. The White Paper rightly identifies its flaws, and the prospect of a simplified approach is welcome. However, the devil will be in the detail as the new system must be workable. If not, it could threaten viability, undermining its central ambition.

The hope is that this reform will enable us to sweep away months of negotiation of Section 106 agreements and the need to consider site viability. However, any new system cannot ignore local circumstances, and lengthy negotiations on S106 agreements could easily be replaced by equally lengthy negotiations on the final value of the development.

Equally, the sweeping away of S106 agreements seems potentially to be based on a misunderstanding of what these agreements serve to achieve. They are not just about securing financial contributions, but also, among other things, ensure that affordable housing is kept in perpetuity and secure site-specific elements of infrastructure including detailed triggers for delivery of such. On the surface it is difficult to see how a levy could replicate this.

The proposals risk a negative impact on affordable housing provision by driving up developer contributions, especially if this is a non-negotiable mechanism. The proposed raising of threshold to 40-50 dwellings, together with the proposed single payment contribution, could impact on quantum of affordable housing that is being delivered. LPAs already have problems spending their CIL, so are they really going to have the resources and organisational structure to facilitate mass affordable housing provision internally?

Whether or not the Government’s ambition to raise more revenue and capture a greater share of the uplift in land value than under the current system of developer contributions is achievable nationally, we should remember that the current system already threatens viability in a number of places which is impacting on land supply. Any changes must remedy rather than exasperate this problem. Detailed consultation across the property industry will be vital to ensure that a workable system is introduced.

We welcome the proposal to allow local authorities to borrow against revenues from the Levy to forward fund infrastructure delivery, as this can be a significant barrier to the delivery of sites. The White Paper confirms that revenues would be spent locally, which is an important aspect to ensure that local communities are not disadvantaged by development, and that there is a high level of transparency. We must ensure we build communities; not housing estates remote from the facilities to support them. Any system that facilitates public/private sector funding to kick start schemes will enhance both the speed of housing delivery and the facilities to support it.

The Government introduced the standard method in 2018, to meet objectively assessed need for housing across England and to ensure consistency. The intention was to shift the focus away from an increasingly complex ‘number-crunching’ exercise and focus on delivery and locational factors instead. However, following a range of criticisms, Government announced almost immediately that the method would be changing.

Those further changes are now enshrined in a parallel document to the 2020 White Paper, entitled ‘Changes to the Current System’. One particular criticism of the 2018 method has been that housing growth was being concentrated in the south and that the wider regions of England would lose out on much needed growth and investment.

The new method includes existing stock as well as new household formation in the modelling. It also adds weight to affordability and removes the cap included within the 2018 method. The requirement to demonstrate a five-year supply of land would also be removed, with sole reliance on the Housing Delivery Test proposed.

Our view on a new standard method

We broadly welcome the revised stock-based approach as a sense check to the 2018 based household projections that are not fit for purpose, and also the introduction of an additional uplift on affordability where the evidence shows this has been getting worse over the last 10 years. Indeed, we have already been using these methods at Local Plan Examinations to show the need for higher figures in the least affordable authorities (relating to the second affordability uplift).

Being mandatory, it will avoid lengthy discussions at examinations, provide clarity to all parties, and increase certainty over where, and how much, developers can build.

However, the introduction of a new standard method relatively soon after the long-awaited 2018 version will potentially give those LPAs where housing growth is unwelcome a reason for delays to Local Plan preparation and review, especially when the new method indicates a lower housing land requirement.

Despite seeming to move towards addressing the regional disparities inherent in the 2018 version, the draft 2020 standard method supports on-going concentration of growth in Greater London, where figures have risen significantly. However, this will not convert into targets because Government will be doing this centrally (for all LPAs), factoring in constraints and ability to deliver. The eventual figure will be below the 90,000 pa the standard method gets to, given that the New London Plan already takes a supply method to need and reaches about 45,000 pa. This and the discrepancies noted above may result in a further overhaul through the consultation process.

There are signs that the change may result in some re-balancing for the Midlands and areas of the north, where currently the standard methodology results in suppressed figures for these areas. However, the new methodology appears to be producing some unexpected outcomes and anomalies across different local authorities.

There will be a disproportionate impact on some LPAs, with targets rising in some (for example the least affordable urban areas) but reducing in others (for example those heavily constrained by national designations and small urban areas).

We have mixed views on the removal of the five-year housing land supply requirement. If plans are clearly deliverable and flexible enough then the Housing Delivery Test may be enough. However, if considerations of deliverability are not built into the Local Plan process then this may be unsuccessful.

We also welcome the removal of the cap. This was always an artificial intervention that prevented the UK properly addressing the housing crisis in the least affordable authorities.

Pillar two of the White Paper is about creating high quality, beautiful places that reflect local character, and ‘beauty’ will now feature prominently in planning policy, processes and decision making. The proposals are far-reaching and will impact growth and renewal areas as follows:

  • The National Design Guide, the proposed National Model Design Code and revised Manual for Streets will all have a more prominent and direct bearing on the design of new communities
  • Local communities should prepare design guides and codes wherever possible which should be subject to public input and consultation
  • The Government will look at a new expert body which will help local authorities make effective use of guides and codes as well as promote improving resources in planning departments, including a chief officer for design and placemaking
  • The Government will look at how Homes England can give greater emphasis to the design quality of its developments
  • There will be a ‘fast track for beauty’ to allow a speedier approval process for new development which complies with a prescribed set of design codes
  • For growth areas, the Government proposes to legislate that a masterplan and design code are agreed as a condition of the permission in principle granted through the Local Plan (with the masterplan and codes being in place prior to proposals coming forward)
  • For renewal areas, the Government is proposing to allow as permitted development such designs which correspond to a prescribed ‘pattern book’. A pilot program will be developed to first test this proposal
 
Our view on planning for ‘beautiful’ places

Significantly, design matters will be more strongly linked to procedures and processes for gaining planning permission, principally by prescribing the need for a masterplan and design codes in growth areas. This is new and will require a step change in the planning system as well as available skills in local authorities. 

Other proposals are less radical, such as the creation of a new expert body to help local authorities up-skill and improve design quality (although we have been here before with CABE and the Design Council). The idea of a National Model Design Code is new and potentially far reaching, giving emphasis to the need to reach a clearer minimum standard of urban design for all new places.

The idea of a pattern book is not new to planning, however it has been a long time since a similar concept has been used for wholesale new development (early 20th century garden cities) and at the same time linked to permitted development rights. However, the preparation of design codes will inevitably add an additional tier of policy documentation to navigate and could delay development.

Overall, the proposed changes to reflect greater beauty in placemaking should be welcomed. They will hopefully help to lift the bar on future design quality further and we consider it a positive step to embed masterplans and codes at the heart of the process.

Local authorities will, however, need to adapt and up-skill so it remains to be seen how quickly and how well they adapt. Clear procedures and timelines (limits) will be needed to prepare masterplans and codes too. It is unlikely that local authorities will be able to prepare many masterplans, design guides or codes in-house, hence there will be an even stronger role for the private sector coming forward to develop such documents.

There are risks with how the ‘fast track for beauty’ will work in practice. The big question here must be how is beautiful determined – as we all know, it lies in the eye of the beholder!

Our view on implementing the White Paper’s proposals

Although intended to increase the rate at which development comes forward, there may be increasing delays in the short-term as resources are directed towards implementing the new system. There is certainly the potential for disruption during the consultation process as we wait for the new system to be ratified and implemented.

There is also likely to be a lull period in plan making as LPAs ‘down tools’ on the existing process in favour of getting to grips with the new system. This could open up opportunities for developers to ‘strike while the iron is hot’ during the pre-transition period and take advantage of the lack of five-year housing land supply between now and the implementation of the Government’s proposals.

The White Paper is well meaning but throws up as many questions as possible solutions. We need to use the consultation and implementation period wisely to avoid the old adage of ‘more haste; less speed’.

Our overall view on the package of changes

The combination of changes to the Use Classes Order, Prior Approval Legislation, and proposals contained within the ‘Planning for the Future’ White Paper represent sweeping and fundamental reforms to the planning system in England – this is definitely revolution not evolution!

Immense change is now sweeping through society at an unprecedented rate, shifting the quantity and nature of the property we need, and where we need it. We cannot say with certainty how much retail or office space will be required in five or ten years’ time. How will our use of urban areas change, and for example, should we now be increasing urban densities or reducing them? The differences between uses are becoming more blurred as we work at home, and traditional high street uses become increasingly intertwined.

The UK has many economically strong commercial centres, but their long-term growth is undoubtedly being held back by shortages of stock – whether this is for housing or commercial uses ranging from distribution to laboratory space. Successive governments have made only limited progress in increasing the rate of housebuilding to address the demand backlog and cater for future demand, and the ongoing debate over whether delays in delivery are the fault of the planning system or landbanking by developers has been unhelpful.

We would observe that the White Paper is very focused on housing and increasing provision. It is almost completely silent on commercial development and the need to deliver future business space that is fit for purpose. It is crucial that workspaces are not left behind, be they offices, laboratories, factories or distribution space.

The White Paper proposals are intended to accelerate delivery through providing greater certainty on the type of development that will be approved and the Levy that developers will be required to pay. Increased development across all sectors will help the recovery of the UK’s economy by stimulating investment, infrastructure and new jobs. New homes are required but it is not enough just to satisfy need. We must consider other factors such as quality, variety, and affordability. The proposals also appear to offer increased responsiveness to changing market conditions in terms of more up-to-date Local Plans, and a faster route to obtaining outline planning consent in growth areas. This comes on top of the new Class E use, combining most office and retail uses into one use class. But will it strike the right balance between flexibility and too much loss of control for LPAs and local communities?

The proposals also rightly seek to address the quality of development, balancing the need for more housing against protecting the character of places. Development must be about both quantity and quality. However, less positive is the stance regarding the Green Belt and duty to cooperate. Will this lead to some local authorities seizing an opportunity to resist meeting demand in their district? In some districts, growth is predicated on working with neighbouring authorities and/or considering Green Belt releases.

There is much criticism in the press about the changes seeking to take decision-making powers away from local communities and elected officials. This does not seem to be the intent of the Government, but rather it is seeking to change the focus of stakeholder engagement from the application stage to the plan making stage. In this regard is signals that improved public consultation will be required. If this is handled properly then it could take the bite out of one of the key frustraters of the development management system as the Government is, we think, trying to forge a system whereby once the plan is made then the potential for local objection to derail good proposals that are in line with a plan will be limited.

Overall, the proposals are bold and wide-ranging, with some interesting innovations. For example, LPAs are required to identify sub-areas in their growth areas for self- and custom-build homes, so that more people can build their own homes – a practice that is relatively rare in the UK, but that thrives in many other countries. The proposed greater use of digital technology and standardised data seems long overdue.

The radical nature of change and proposed speed of delivery are commendable, but we do need some consideration before we leap forward into a new era of mass development programmes. We need to enable a system that is implementable without the delay resulting from challenge due to ill-considered judgements based on ill-conceived ambitions. The Government will need to listen to the views of a broad range of players to ensure that the proposals are workable and result in a better overall system than the one which it will replace.

We believe that the time is right for a fundamental review of the planning system. After all, if not now, then when? Change is clearly needed, but this must be change for the better.

Carter Jonas will be closely monitoring the progress of the forthcoming changes and proposed reforms.

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Nick is a chartered town planner and development surveyor with over 25 years' experience, gained across the residential, commercial, retail and industrial sectors for corporate, institutional and private landowners and developers. He has worked at CBRE and Drivers Jonas Deloitte. His professional experience is in three main sectors – Strategic Land / Projects, Retail / Mixed-Use and Central London. Strategic Projects / Land involves the promotion of land for commercial and residential development for landowners and developers. Retail / Mixed-Use schemes are a blend of edge of centre and town centre mixed-use schemes with food stores and other uses, often residential. This sector includes regeneration and waterside schemes. Central London focuses on projects from Canary Wharf to Hammersmith and Camden down to Wandsworth, Southwark and Lambeth.

When he isn’t working, Nick can be found playing golf (increasingly badly) and spending time re-stocking and emptying his wine cellar to indulge his passion for wine.

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Jon leads the Carter Jonas London development team, providing strategic development advice, feasibility and viability studies, acquisition, disposal and marketing advice and advice on structuring and procuring development partnerships. He has 30 years’ experience, working initially in local government and then in consultancy at Donaldsons, Knight Frank and GL Hearn.

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John is Head of the Leeds office and the Planning & Development Team North. John advises clients on proposed development projects throughout the North of England.  He has over 30 years’ experience in residential and commercial development acting for private, corporate, institutional, charity and public sector clients.

This includes site identification, project management of planning and development strategies, valuation and viability appraisals, marketing and sale of development opportunities.

John has specific expertise in Options, Promotional Agreements, Joint Ventures and Conditional Contracts, acting mainly for landowners.  John has been involved in projects such as new settlements, to city centre regeneration, provincial sites, large commercial developments and site sales.

The Development Agency team are currently instructed on 6,500 acres in 150 locations across the North West, Yorkshire and the North East.

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Simon is the Partner who heads up our planning team in the North and is based in our Leeds office. The Planning North team is based in Leeds and Harrogate and also operates through the Carter Jonas York, Boroughbridge and Kendal offices and working in close partnership with the Development Agency team and other agency colleagues across the region.

His 30 year career spans both public and private sectors. Simon has a strong background in planning project management and has successfully led development project teams on many occasions since becoming a planning consultant in 2003. His experience covers a full range of property sectors and development types including redevelopment of general housing site promotion, large public sector sites, education, high density and student housing, investment portfolio review, large scale mixed use development, major industrial, employment and retail proposals and leisure/hotel schemes.

Simon is an active member of the Home Builders Federation and York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.

Areas of expertise include:

•           Strategic planning advice for major, complex and high profile sites and development proposals  
•           Strong understanding of inter-related planning and market issues
•           Negotiation of Heads of Terms for Section 106 Agreements
•           Portfolio review and due diligence assessment
•           Development promotion through planning applications, appeals and development plans
•           Direction of heritage-related projects EIA development proposals
•           Provision of expert witness evidence to public inquiries and hearings   

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Steven is Partner and Head of Planning Southern Region and is based in our Oxford office.

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James is Chairman of Carter Jonas.  Formerly Head of the Planning & Development Division, James advises clients on proposed development projects throughout the south of England with nearly 30 years of experience in residential and mixed use development.  This includes site identification, project management of planning and development strategies, valuation and viability appraisals, marketing and sale of development opportunities. He has specific expertise in option, promotion and other development agreements, joint ventures and landowner equalisation agreements. James has been involved in sites ranging from new settlements to city centre regeneration and smaller provincial and rural schemes, and also provides expert witness and independent expert valuation services for dispute resolution.

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Colin is a Partner and was appointed Head of Planning & Development Division in November 2020, he is based out of our Cambridge office.  He has over 25 years’ experience of planning consultancy and has a broad sphere of work.  He acts for a wide range of private, institutional and developer clients and has worked on significant planning applications and appeals.

He regularly instructs Counsel, and has appeared at a number of Local Plan examinations and in Section 78 and other appeals where he has often given evidence.  He carries out much land promotion work and has a strong track record of delivering planning consents taking projects through their entire process from site identification to construction on site.  

Away from work, Colin is Chairman of the Cambridge Forum for the Construction Industry and of the Cambridge branch of networking group, Interact.  He is also Chairman of the Dining Rights Committee at the Hawks’ Club, a sporting club in the City for Cambridge University sportsmen. He is a regular, if poor golfer, a keen cyclist and a committed, but somewhat less dangerous skier than he once was.

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Matthew has acted for a wide number of Landowner Clients including:

  • Royal Estate Sandringham
  • Crown Point Estate
  • Cecil Family Trust
  • Greene King Plc
  • North Hertfordshire College
  • Cemex
  • May Gurney
  • Pigeon
  • Advice, marketing, disposal and additional tranche disposal of 1,500 unit Residential Development in Grantham.

Project team principle for disposal of the NHC Centre of the Arts, Hitchin, securing a Development Partner and assembling a professional team to progress an application, sale and disposal of a principal asset within the College’s portfolio 

Mathew has over 29 years' experience in the property industry and has been directly involved Residential Development in East Anglia since 1998. He specialises in Land Disposals and Acquisition; Strategic Land, Promotion and Option Agreements. He has acted for a wide range of private and public sector land owners companies including Greene King, Royal Estate Sandringham; Grant Thornton, Pigeon, Crown Point Estate, Cemex (formerly RMC), The Diocese of Norfolk & Norwich and North Hertfordshire College as well as private land owners across the region.

He is Head of Residential Development at the Cambridge Office.

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