Membership body publishes recommendations to streamline the planning system

The Housing Forum has said that the Government needs to remove nutrient neutrality from the planning system and avoid imposing too many changes in order to retain staff in local authority planning departments. 


Nutrient neutrality needs to be removed from planning system, HF says

A report by the Housing Forum said that nutrient neutrality is not a matter for the planning system as there are other agencies responsible for dealing with it.

New legislation on nutrient neutrality promised by housing secretary Michael Gove in October was not included in the King’s speech on Tuesday. Nutrient pollution laws have been blamed for holding up the building of 150,000 homes. 

The Housing Forum’s report on streamlining the planning system said the timing of new legislation is uncertain, but that in the meantime, local authorities should exercise as much flexibility as possible and work closely with developers to find mitigation solutions.

The Housing Forum warned of building delays caused by nutrient neutrality: “Similar leadership over the water neutrality rules is needed to ensure that new housing can be built in areas where it is badly needed and which would otherwise be very suitable, such as Cambridgeshire”.

The forum added that imposing too many changes on local authorities causes disruption and restructuring, which are key factors that cause staff to leave.

“The recent history of white papers that are not followed through have been unhelpful”, the report said. It added that attempting to bring in an infrastructure levy without cross-party support would “likely add to the disruption for no gain”.

The infrastructure levy is a reform to the existing system of developer contributions in England, namely Section 106 planning obligations and the Community Infrastructure Levy.

The Government ran a consultation on the infrastructure levy between March and June this year, and is in the process of analysing the feedback.

The report also states that proposals to increase planning fees have been “broadly welcomed across the housing sector, and the move to increase fees annually in line with inflation gives predictability to both applicants and local planning authorities”.

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The proposals consist of an increase in planning fees by 35% for major applications and 25% for all other applications. The additional fees income would be ring-fenced and more performance measures would be monitored to improve the quality of local authority planning services.

Responding to the forum’s report, Tom Titherington, chief investment and development officer at Sovereign Network Group (SNG) said: “This usefully adds to the overwhelming weight of evidence that action is needed to unlock delivery of homes. The themes identified have been known for many years while solutions are continually kicked into the long grass and the housing crisis has intensified, that has to stop.

“We need to see proper investment into planning departments alongside national policy reform that enables good, sustainable homes to be built quickly. This could include recognition of standards like our Homes and Place Standard, that can provide confidence to local authorities that new homes will benefits residents and the local community over generations.”

Evidence for the report, which was produced by the Housing Forum working group on planning, was gathered during a series of meetings, discussions and two larger workshops.

Contributors included representatives from councils, Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing, independent planning consultants and the Vistry Group.

The Housing Forum has 150 member organisations from across the housing sector, with a collective turnover of over £24bn.