Two of the county’s largest property development and investment companies have produced proposals for reforming the planning system to facilitate “brownfield urban regeneration”, describing the current situation as a brake on “economic growth, housing delivery and addressing inequalities”.
Landsec and British Land, both of which are very active in London, argue for the streamlining and simplification of the process for obtaining planning permissions, and recommend creating the right for developers to by-pass local authorities with larger applications and instead submit them directly to the relevant “strategic or combined authority” for the area, a definition that covers the Greater London Authority.
Published last month, the initiative has come amid a fall in the rate of completion of new homes in London and across the UK to levels far below the government’s 300,000 annual target amid high interest and mortgage rates, uncertainty about the direction of national planning policy and a shortage of land being made available for development, and with an escalating housing crisis in the capital.
The Landsec and British Land document says there are three principal reasons for the failures it identifies in the planning system as it presently functions:
- “Multiple layers of complexity and uncertainty” which have the effect of creating a “default mode” of preventing or slowing progress.
- Too little attention being given to the particular challenges presented by “sustainable and beneficial mixed-use development in urban areas” with initiatives such as design codes and the proposed new infrastructure levy limiting scope for developers to address them.
- A reduction in the resources of planning authorities at the same time as the demands on them have become more complex.
Stressing the value of community engagement that responds to local priorities, the two developers underline that “development is more widely accepted in urban areas” where demand for homes, employment and improved quality of life tends to be greatest.
“The thoughtful redevelopment of our cities through good design, heritage preservation and low carbon development” is described as providing the country’s best opportunity to increase economic growth.
Recommendations made include the piloting of “new ways of working in progressive authorities” to speed up stages of the planning process, “creating tax incentives to invest in urban regeneration”, and the abandonment of national government’s proposed “gentle densification” approach, which Landsec and British Land say “will make brownfield development more challenging” and limit its potential.
The document calls for the harmonisation of devolution settlements across UK city regions so that they all have similar planning oversight powers, and suggests developers should be able to exercise the option of applying directly to the relevant regional authority if their scheme proposes more than 500 homes or 50,000 square metres of commercial space.
“Where this route is engaged, the applicant must commit to delivering a community consultation method statement,” the document continues. “Widening involvement in planning is critical to building public trust and securing more representative public participation. This can be achieved by creating real, measurable opportunities for people and communities to engage in the planning and design process.”
Read the Landsec and British Land proposals in full via here.