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Budget 2020 - Planning for prosperity.. tomorrow

Published by Turley on 12th March 2020 -

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Planning for prosperity…tomorrow

Rishi Sunak appeared positively prime ministerial in his delivery of the first budget of this parliament.

With a clear mantra of “delivering on promises” made during the general election, he proceeded to launch a spending bonanza totalling £175bn over the term of the parliament. This is clearly a historic budget in terms of the absolute amount of spending announced, but also in terms of the distribution of that funding to different areas of the UK.

One of the key election promises was to level up regions outside London and the South East which have historically been left behind in terms of Government funding. On the surface of it the Budget 2020 makes great strides to delivering on this promise including a bounty of projects outside London. However, it remains to be seen how successfully these can be delivered as joined-up co-operation between government at all levels will be needed to realise the potential.

Levelling up – key announcements benefitting the regions

  • A significant new economic decision making campus in the North (including Treasury, DIT, BEIS and MHCLG) 

  • Relocation of 22,000 civil service staff out of London to the regions

  • Treasury offices in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland

  • A devolution deal for West Yorkshire and a Mayoral Combined Authority 

  • At least two carbon capture and storage clusters with Teesside, Merseyside and Humberside mentioned by the Chancellor

  • A £27bn strategic investment in roads and motorways

  • Strategic investment in railways (including support for the Midlands Rail Hub and maximising the benefits of Northern Powerhouse Rail in relation to Bradford)

  • £4.2bn five year funding settlements for eight Mayoral Combined Authorities

  • A £400m fund to deliver 70,000 new homes on brownfield land

  • Further support for housing growth in the OxCam Arc, including the potential establishment of new Development Corporations and a new town

  • 40 new hospitals

Planning reforms tomorrow

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government will address the House tomorrow and outline proposals for planning reforms to “bring the system in to the 21st century”. This will be followed by a White Paper in the spring. It remains to be seen what this will entail, but the wording of the budget statement implies “comprehensive reforms” to speed up delivery of homes and a “first principles” rethinking of the planning system over the longer-term. There is also an indication that the Government will get tougher on local authorities that fail to meet housing needs, with “greater intervention” mooted. It is noted that the budget statement exclusively refers to the regulatory impact of the planning system on housing and makes no reference to its role in other forms of development and use classes. This is, on the surface of it, only a partial approach to the true reach and impact of the system, albeit an important one.

Alongside planning reforms, the final details of the National Infrastructure Strategy are awaited and this will undoubtedly play a big role in the extent to which infrastructure supports levelling up. There is also a promise of a review of the Treasury’s Green Book to place more weight on regional prosperity in its assessment of major investment projects.

Joined-up government, please

We welcome the big step towards levelling up the regions associated with today’s spending announcements. These have long been called for by city regions, combined authorities and local authorities and for the first time since the decentralisation efforts of the mid 20th century there will be a significant investment boost to the regions.

However the promise of £175bn spending in this parliament will only be realised if there is a joined up commitment at all levels of government to unlock and deliver investment projects and growth. This will mean ensuring that investment is not slowed by the glacial pace of local plan making, by local political concerns or deferring difficult decisions regarding the location, scale and impacts of development projects needed for levelling up.

Delivering on the Chancellor’s budget promises will require a joined up approach at all levels of government, supported by a planning system that enables levelling up to occur at pace.

11 March 2020


Iona Stonehouse

We are a full service national planning and development consultancy.

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