News: 12 May 2022Planning Director Iain Painting comments on the Queen's Speech

Following on from his recent blog "What should planners hope for in the Queen’s Speech?", Planning Director Iain Painting shares his thoughts on whether his top three priorities were addressed.

"Planning’s inclusion as an integral part of the government’s flagship levelling up and regeneration bill, and at the forefront of the Queen’s Speech, is a great endorsement of our industry’s belief in the vital role planning and development has to play in delivering for our communities and addressing social inequality. And this, I believe, is a great opportunity to look at planning reform holistically in the context of the many other related policy areas.

But behind the unobjectionable and indeed welcome statements in the speech itself – increasing local involvement and focusing on beautiful, green development with supporting infrastructure – much, as ever, depends on the detail.  Not only in the proposed primary legislation but also statutory instruments, policy and guidance.

What we should be focused on is whether the reforms set out are truly compatible with the premise of the planning system – to plan for the use and development of land in the long-term public interest – and how we can make sure that the new policies are genuinely better than the old.  It needs to be about more than street names and al fresco dining.

It was disappointing to see ‘speculative’ development referred to in the government’s background briefing note as something to be avoided.  Much development is speculative, be it allocated in a plan or not, and this shows a distinct lack of understanding about the industry. Perhaps a signal to us all that there is indeed still much to do with Government, as well as the general public, to demonstrate the benefits development can bring, and raise awareness of the often winding road to delivery.

The new infrastructure levy signals an interesting shift away from mitigation of impacts to taxation on value.  But as it is based on the ‘financial value’ of developments it will have to be clearly defined if it is not to get stuck in a quagmire of valuation disputes.  There is also a genuine opportunity to streamline regulations post-Brexit whilst safeguarding the environment.  Again, such changes will have to be carefully managed.

With the publication of the bill comes a chance to keep a close eye on the detail of these reforms as they develop.  There is a real opportunity here – one benefit of less ‘boldness’ is that these reforms may be realistically deliverable – but the government must be careful to ensure it is prioritising real and beneficial long-term planning improvements over short-term vote winners.  It is, after all, too important to fail."

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