A Look at the New Government’s Raft of Planning Changes

Posted by UK Property Forums on 9th July 2024 -


In a speech delivered on July 8, Chancellor Rachel Reeves outlined seven key policies aimed at relaxing planning rules and promoting development. So, what has the new Government announced, exactly? UK Property Forums partner, Vail Williams, offers a summary and explains how Reeves boldly asserted that she has accomplished more to unblock the planning system in the previous 72 hours than the Conservative Government did in the previous 14 years.

The central message was clear: the Labour government is taking immediate and decisive action to foster economic growth and build necessary infrastructure, including 1.5 million homes over the next five years. 

Reeves, who is working on the changes alongside the deputy prime minister, Angela Rayner, emphasised the urgency of these initiatives, declaring, “The system needs a new signal. This is that signal.”

Here are the key measures announced today by Reeves:

  1. Reforming the National Planning Policy Framework

Reeves announced a consultation on a new growth-focused approach to the planning system, set to be completed by the end of the month. This includes the restoration of mandatory housing targets.

Meanwhile, the ban on new onshore wind projects in England has been lifted, with plans to integrate onshore wind into the nationally significant infrastructure projects regime, transferring decision-making power from local to national authorities.

  1. Prioritising Energy Projects

Energy projects will be given priority within the planning system to expedite their progress. The Government also plans to expand the spatial plan for energy to other infrastructure sectors, ensuring swift development.

  1. Accelerating Stalled Housing Sites

A new task force will be established to accelerate stalled housing projects, starting with Liverpool Central Docks, Worcester Parkway, Northstowe, and Langley Sutton Coldfield. These sites represent more than 14,000 homes.

  1. Supporting Local Authorities

To bolster local planning capacities, the Government will provide 300 additional planning officers across the country. This support aims to streamline the planning process and expedite approvals for new developments.

David Ramsay, head of planning for Vail Williams, said: “There are 337 local authorities so this will represent less than one person per authority, bringing into question the Government’s ability to influence this change without a more significant injection of resource.”

  1. Direct Ministerial Intervention

Reeves highlighted that the Deputy Prime Minister, Angela Rayner, will prioritise the economic benefits of developments when intervening in the planning system.

Rayner has already reviewed two planning appeals for data centres in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. A coordinated approach will involve local mayors and the Office for Investment to ensure significant investment opportunities are promptly addressed.

  1. Reforming Infrastructure Planning

The planning system will also be reformed to deliver critical infrastructure.

Reeves announced that the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero will prioritise unresolved infrastructure projects.

New policy intentions for critical infrastructure will be outlined in the coming months, with updates to relevant national policy statements expected within the year.

  1. Balancing Development with Environmental and Social Concerns

Reeves acknowledged potential opposition, citing environmental impacts, pressure on services, and local opposition as challenges.

However, she asserted that the Labour Government will not succumb to the status quo of inaction. Instead, the Government will make tough decisions to prioritise national interests and fulfil its mandate to stimulate development and build affordable homes, including more for social rents.

Reeves concluded by reaffirming the Labour Government’s commitment to transformative change.

“We have done more to unblock the planning system in the past 72 hours than the last Government did in 14 years,” she stated, underscoring the administration’s resolve to drive progress and build a stronger, more resilient economy.

David Ramsay concluded: “This ambitious agenda marks a significant shift in planning policy, signalling the Labour government’s dedication to rapid and substantial development to address housing shortages and infrastructure needs.

“Perhaps the Labour Government has indeed signalled an intent to do more to unblock the planning system. The pro-growth agenda and recognition that something has to change in the planning system is welcomed but, as ever, the devil will be in the detail.

Matthew Battle

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