Housing secretary James Brokenshire has pledged to find new ways to help councils pay for their planning departments
The minister told delegates at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference in Manchester last week that fresh thinking was needed to close a funding gap for dealing with development applications.
Currently local authorities recoup in fees from developers just half the £1 billion they collectively spend on planning.
Brokenshire said the government would publish an Accelerated Planning Green Paper to boost council resources and ultimately benefit the built environment.
‘The green paper will invite proposals to pilot new approaches to meeting the costs of the planning service where this improves performance, including whether local authorities could recover a greater proportion of these costs,’ he said.
Brokenshire stressed that councils would have to invest any additional revenue gained from fees in their planning services and demonstrate ‘measurable improvements’ in terms of speed and quality.
‘The green paper will also set out how we could improve the process of granting planning permissions and thereby the service provided to homeowners and developers alike,’ he added.
Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) head of policy and research Richard Blyth said the body was ‘delighted’ by Brokenshire’s announcement and looked forward to working with ministers on the detail.
Elsewhere in his speech, Brokenshire revealed that London councils would share half the £2 billion of long-term funding deals for housing announced by prime minister Theresa May last year, with the other half split among the rest of the country.
‘The bidding round is now open to those housing associations who already have a strategic partnership with Homes England and we’re also working with the Greater London Authority,’ said Brokenshire. ‘I’m looking forward to seeing our housing associations take on more ambitious projects in the decade ahead.’
The government has set itself a target of building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.
‘Sometimes delivering on that promise will mean we have to challenge vested interests – take pragmatic but tough action – to kick the obstacles holding us back out of the way,’ said Brokenshire.
Tim Burden, director at planning consultants Turley, said it was ‘imperative’ that local planning authorities were properly funded.
’Over the past decade, many specialist posts within councils have been lost, leading to costly outsourcing, delays and funding significantly reduced or diverted elsewhere, while at the same time the planning system has become more complex with increasing demands on officer time through new procedural requirements,’ he said.
’I would particularly like to see some significant investment in plan-making, which in itself is likely to facilitate better development.
’We must invest in the next generation of planners as without the necessary financial and training support, councils will simply not be able to deliver on the government’s housing and growth agenda.’