Boris Johnson’s ‘Once in a Generation’ Planning Shake-Up


Building reforms proposed for the United Kingdom aim to give people the courage to “tear it down and start again” as part of the biggest shake up of the system since World War II.

Streamlining the planning process so a target of 300,000 new homes can be built each year is central to the paper, “Planning for the Future” released by the UK government on 6 August.

The plans give a 30 per cent first home discount to key workers, and first-time buyers to get a foot on the property ladder.

The reforms also aim to boost the market share of small builders “cut off by the planning process” and represent 12 per cent of new builds compared to 40 per cent three decades ago.

England plans to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, so the proposal highlighted the need for trees along every new street, carbon zero homes and reforms to allow more building on underutilised brownfield land while restricting development on the green belt.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said the current “make-do-and-mend” towards homes could only last for so long and in 2020, many were no longer fit for human habitation.

“The whole thing is beginning to crumble and the time has come to do what too many have for too long lacked the courage to do, tear it down and start again,” Johnson said.

“That is what this paper proposes—radical reform unlike anything we have seen since the Second World War.

“Not more fiddling around the edges, not simply painting over the damp patches, but levelling the foundations and building, from the ground up, a whole new planning system for England.”

Related: Falling UK Property Market Hits Pre-Covid Gains

A historic village in England will be clearly identified in local plans.
▲ There are plans to conserve historic buildings across England, and where appropriate enhance them through development particularly in relation to becoming carbon zero.

However, there would be some constraints to development design outlined in the “fast-track for beauty” for popular and replicable forms which reflect local character and preferences.

These development applications would be approved to enable a “gentle intensification” of towns and cities while relieving pressure on planning authorities.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process.

“Our complex planning system has been a barrier to building the homes people need; it takes seven years to agree local housing plans and five years just to get a spade in the ground.

“As we face the economic effects of the pandemic, now is the time for decisive action and a clear plan for jobs and growth,” Jenrick said.

“Our reforms will create thousands of jobs, lessen the dominance of big builders in the system.”

London Stock Exchange-listed residential developer Gleeson Homes chief executive officer James Thomson also welcomed the changes.

“We strongly support the reform of our historic planning system, to bring it up to speed and ensure it is fit for purpose for the modern day.

“In particular, we welcome initiatives to make it more transparent, speed up planning where appropriate and has a presumption towards development rather than against,” Thomson said.

“Not only will these reforms go some way to supporting local SME housebuilders and their supply chains, but they will also help to ‘level-up’ the country through increased infrastructure investment, bringing jobs and homes to the north.”

Section 106 agreements and the community infrastructure levy will also be replaced with a new infrastructure levy that will be a fixed proportion of the value of the development, above a set threshold.

The paper will now be formally discussed before the government brings forward legislation and policy changes to implement the reforms.

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