Planning is the Centre Piece of The Queen’s Speech

13 May 2021

The Queen's Speech, delivered on 11th May, referenced the fact that the government intends to make significant changes to the planning system during the next year. This includes a planning bill, in addition to several other bills with planning implications. The bill, which is now expected to be brought before Parliament in the autumn, is being designed to enact planning reforms trailed in last summer’s planning white paper, in which prime minister Boris Johnson said he wanted to “level the foundations” of planning and create an entirely new system.

Below is a summary of the nine key changes that the government plans to make.

1. Changes to Local Plans.
One of the main elements of the new planning bill would be the change in the role of local plans. Local plans will have to “provide more certainty over the type, scale and design of development permitted on different categories of land. The briefing notes went on to say that the changes would involve “clear land allocations in local plans” which would provide “more certainty for communities and developers, particularly smaller developers, about what is permitted where”. Ministers are expected to enact a radical shift in the way decisions are made on new developments by zoning land either for growth, where developers will, in principle, be allowed to build homes and related infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, or protection where development will be restricted.

Furthermore, the government has confirmed that the local plans will be expected to be produced more quickly, creating simpler, faster procedures for their production. This is in addition to providing more efficient procedures for approval major schemes and assessing environmental impacts.

2. Changes to developer contributions methods.
A new levy is promised to replace existing methods of securing developer contributions towards infrastructure and affordable housing. The briefing note confirmed one of the main elements of the planning Bill would be “replacing the existing systems for funding affordable housing and infrastructure from development with a new more predictable and more transparent levy”. This will replace the current system of section 106 agreements, currently negotiated between planners and developers on a case-by-case basis.

3. Various aspects of planning decision-making will be accelerated, say ministers.
The planning Bill will aim to create “simpler, faster procedures for producing local development plans” as well as for “approving major schemes” and “assessing environmental impacts”, the briefing notes say.

4. The digitising of the planning system.
The Queen’s Speech briefing document stated that the planning bill would involve “digitising” the planning system. The objective of digitisation is to make it more visual thereby encouraging and improving public engagement.

5. Changes in the assessment of the effects of development is set to change.
The briefing notes said the proposed planning bill will “use post-Brexit freedoms to simplify and enhance the framework for environmental assessments for developments”. The notes also confirm that the proposed Environment Bill will “establish an independent Office for Environmental Protection”.

6. New duty for developers to deliver an uplift in biodiversity through their schemes.
The Environment Bill will mandate ‘biodiversity net gain’ in the planning system, the notes said. They pledge that the Bill will also “improve planning for nature recovery through Local Nature Recovery Strategies and create Nature Recovery Networks to join up nature sites and create wildlife-rich places”. The Bill will also give communities a greater say in the protection of local trees, the notes say.

7. Rule changes for development corporations are planned.
According to the briefing notes, the planning Bill will revise the framework for locally-led development corporations to “ensure local areas have access to appropriate delivery vehicles to support growth and regeneration”.

8. Promises for a new body that the government intends to become a statutory planning consultee on the fire safety of proposed high-rise flats.
The Building Safety Bill will establish a new Building Safety Regulator (BSR), which is intended to take over the Health and Safety Executive’s statutory consultee role on planning applications for high-rise buildings. Speaking in parliament, the Queen said: “My ministers will establish in law a new Building Safety Regulator to ensure that the tragedies of the past are never repeated.” The new Building Safety Regulator was a key component of the Building Safety Bill and will aim to introduce a better safety system and impose sanctions and regulations to ensure this happens.

9. Ministers aim to accelerate deployment of digital communications network.
The briefing notes confirmed that the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill will “support the installation, maintenance, upgrading and sharing of apparatus that enables better telecommunications coverage and connectivity”.