May you live in interesting times.
Resignation of Rishi Sunak as chancellor – 5 July 2022
Resignation of Boris Johnson as prime minister – 7 July 2022
Replacement of Boris Johnson by Liz Truss as prime minister – 6 September 2022
Death of Her Majesty – 8 September 2022
Mini-budget and publication of growth plan – 23 September 2022
Resignation of Liz Truss as prime minister – 20 October 2022
Replacement of Liz Truss by Rishi Sunak, Boris Johnson or AN Other as prime minister – October 2022
A lot has happened. Or perhaps, in our planning world, nothing has happened.
We briefly had a prime minister who talked of abolishing “top-down, Whitehall-inspired Stalinist housing targets” and indeed the Levelling Up Secretary of State Simon Clarke (who incidentally came out publicly today as a backer of Boris Johnson) spoke about those targets as if they had already been abolished. But of course, as we wait for the mythical NPPF changes prospectus (delayed to November even before the Truss resignation which could lead to further delay), formal policy remains as is. The only effect of the loose talk was to give cover to local authorities anxious for an excuse to pause their local plan making. Thanks Liz – it wasn’t just the markets that you spooked.
No doubt the change is on its way regardless but, honestly, how idiotic it would be to give up on having a methodology that identifies each local planning authority’s local housing needs, for which they should usually plan. The likely consequences of removing the targets are clear:
- longer plan-making processes, particularly the examination stage
- fewer homes delivered
- more planning by appeal
- plan-making increasingly largely driven by promises of funding to be provided and threats of funding to be removed. We can try to forget about that “pork markets” Truss quote but I suggest you retain at hand a much older phrase: “pork barrel politics”.
Zack Simons of course hit the mark in his 11 August 2022 blog post Notes from the hustings: the end of “Stalinist housing targets”? as did Lichfields’ Matthew Spry in his 12 October 2022 magnum opus Standard Method Mortuus Est).
And what is wrong with top down targets anyway? Our health and education systems for instance are full of the things.
Away from housing, the announcements in the growth plan in relation to, for instance, fracking (pro – despite the planning minister Lee Rowley being strongly against) and solar energy (anti) have not get found their way into any formal policy changes.
There was the reference to a proposed Planning and Infrastructure Bill in the growth plan but no skin on the bones of that and no indication either of its relationship to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which on 20 October 2022 finally completed its Public Bill Stage with publication of a new version of the Bill as amended in Public Bill Committee. A 134 page list of committee stage decisions on proposed amendments was published on the same day.
Now Nicola Gooch definitely deserves some sort of award (a Damehood in one of those resignation honours lists perhaps) for delving into the amended Bill in her 21 October 2022 blog post All that’s left is LURB…. The Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill comes out of Committee and above all for this comparison version showing the changes made.
I have scrolled through the amended Bill and aside from the detailed changes to schedule 11 (which relates to the infrastructure levy) mentioned by Nicola, and other minor tweaks, I would only draw attention to the following new provisions:
- clause 111 – power to shorten the deadline for examination of DCO applications
- clause 112 – additional powers in relation to non-material changes to DCOs
- clause 152 – prospects of planning permission for alternative development [in the context of CPO compensation]
Next up will be Report stage and a debate on the Third Reading of the Bill and we shall see if any further amendments are tabled by the Secretary of State, whoever he or she may be at that stage.
Simon Ricketts, 22 October 2022
Personal views, et cetera