Report by Localis on planning reform comes in advance of first speech by new housing secretary Michael Gove
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities needs to set up dedicated funds to support neighbourhood planning and to offset the carbon produced by new development as part of its forthcoming planning reforms, according to new research.
The report, by localist think tank Localis, said the government should use the planning system to create a “stewardship” model of delivery of new housing, based upon a partnership between developers, local authority and community groups.
The call from Localis comes on the day Michael Gove is scheduled to make his first set piece speech as housing secretary, following his decision to pause the government’s planning reform process in the wake of his appointment in the reshuffle last month.
The research, backed by housebuilder Countryside, said that achieving this will require a greater investment in neighbourhood planning, which could not necessarily be funded through developer contributions without damaging viability, and which should be paid for by central government.
Until recently, local groups pulling together neighbourhood plans have been able to access grant funding of just £10,000 per group, with another £8,000 available for those with particularly ambitious proposals. In many cases this fails to cover the professional fees necessary to promote a plan
It also said the government needed to fund the offsetting of carbon emissions from the development of new homes and their in-use emissions, despite the proposed Future Homes Standard which is set to make new homes “zero carbon ready”.
The body also said the government needed to bring back the regional strategic planning tier, via setting up regional “growth boards” to oversee “joined-up strategic thinking on climate action, transport, infrastructure and housing provision”.
Localis’ research did not say how much the government needed to allocate to the funds.
Jonathan Werran, chief executive of Localis, said: “If the government is serious about delivering quality housing its needs to find money to support design codes and neighbourhood planning, and carbon offsetting if we are to reach net zero. These are things which need to be addressed.”
The report comes in advance of Gove’s first conference speech in his new role. While he has already made it clear that the current reform programme will be paused while he reviews the reforms in train, it is not yet clear how significant a delay will ensue.
Prior to Gove’s appointment, it was already being briefed that the department had decided to backtrack on a number of the most controversial elements of last year’s planning white paper, such as the intention to set up growth zones with automatic outline permission, and centrally mandated housing targets for local authorities.