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Connor Hall

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July 9, 2024

Labour 2024 – What does it mean for Planning & Housing Delivery?

Rachel Reeves gave her first speech as Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, July 8th 2024, describing reforming the planning system as “central” to the government’s political argument. Falling under one of the government’s three pillars for economic growth (stability, investment and reform), the new UK government have promised significant changes to the planning system – including revising the NPPF, the delivery of 1.5 million homes, and introducing 300 new planning officers across the country.

Our key takeaways, and what this means for planning and housing delivery, are discussed in turn below.

National Planning Policy Framework

The Labour party promised an immediate update to the NPPF throughout their campaign trail, promising to “undo damaging Conservative changes”. In her speech, Rachel Reeves said to expect a consultation on updates to the NPPF within the next month. The extent of the changes are yet to be determined, however, are to include the reintroduction of housing targets and the strengthening of the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

Housing Delivery

The government have promised to deliver 1.5 million homes in their first term. Amendments to the NPPF will be the main method through which they plan to achieve this, including through restoring mandatory housing targets, strengthening the presumption in favour of sustainable developments and through the strategic release of existing low-quality land within the green belt land (‘grey belt’, discussed later).

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer has repeatedly emphasised that his new government will need to ‘hit the ground running’ with regards to their housing delivery plans. In an effort to do so, responsibility will continue to be given to local communities and governance to shape their housing delivery, however national government will intervene wherever necessary to make sure housing delivery remains a priority. As such, Rachel Reeves announced that the government will introduce a new taskforce to deliver housing, and the Deputy Prime Minister Angela Rayner will write to Local Planning Authorities to outline what is expected of them – including universal coverage of local plans, and the review of green belt and grey belt boundaries to assist with the delivery of housing development.

Green Belt, Grey Belt, and Affordable Housing

The government have promised to maintain and protect existing green belt land. However, in successfully achieving their housing delivery targets, the government intend to take a sequential approach to the strategic release of existing low-quality green belt land, dubbed ‘Grey Belt’. This is to be existing brownfield sites within the green belt, and is expected to include anything from petrol stations to car parks.  The government intend for up to 50% of ‘Grey Belt’ land released to be allocated for affordable housing.

Elsewhere, the government continue to adopt a ‘brownfield first approach’ that intends on developing post-industrial low-quality land for housing first, before considering any natural green space.

The provision of a maximum number of affordable housing is a clear priority for the incoming government. The plan is to facilitate this via stronger planning obligations, and offering support to housebuilders and housing associations to have increased capacity to deliver this ambition. Full details on this are still to be announced.

New Towns

In their election manifesto, Labour promised to deliver the ‘next generation of new towns’. The government intend to identify sites for new towns within one year of taking office; have the first homes in the new towns built by the end of their term in office; and back developers who focus on high-quality affordable housing.

New Cross-Boundary Strategic Planning

The government have pledged to introduce new mechanisms for cross-boundary strategic planning. Regional mayors and unitary authorities will be required to strategically plan for the housing delivery in their areas, while unitary authorities will be given consolidated planning powers to allow for improved decision-making.

Similarly, the government intends to strengthen Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) to make land assembly for the above purposes quicker and more efficient.

Planning Officers

Rachel Reeves promised 300 new planning officers will be introduced to LPAs across the country to speed up planning. This is to be funded by a 1% increase in stamp duty surcharge for non-UK resident homebuyers, equating to £20m. In our opinion, it is unlikely that 300 new officers are sufficient to make a tangible difference, as equally distributed throughout the UK, this would likely equate to no more than one new planning officer per planning authority.

Summary

The new UK government has promised ambitious changes to the planning system, including revising the NPPF, delivery of housing and new towns, and 300 new planning officers to speed up the planning system.

Notable other key elements of Rachel Reeves’ speech include prioritising existing applications for energy development already within the system, updates to National Policy Statements within a year, focusing on delivering infrastructure the country “needs”, and the removal of the ban on on-shore wind development.

Rachel Reeves’ speech can be found here in full.

If you have any questions regarding the above, please get in touch with your regular point of contact at DWD.

By Connor Hall

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