Statement from WPA Chair: Planning for the Future White Paper

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6 August 2020

Planning for the Future White Paper

 “We welcome the Government’s ambition to simplify the planning process: speeding up the delivery of development, which creates economic growth and much-needed housing across the country. Greater use of new technologies to improve the transparency and accessibility of the planning system is also very positive.

“However, the reforms seem to be focused on delivering homes in areas outside of major cities, and it is unclear how these proposals will sit with regional plans or promote growth in metropolitan areas. Disappointingly there appears to be no reference to the role of economic growth, which development in the City of Westminster – and other strategically important areas – underpins.

“Our members will be affected by these three key areas: the proposed changes to planning fees, developer contributions and simplification of the planning process.  We will continue to digest the details of the reforms with our members, but in our submissions to Government, the WPA will insist that any changes to the planning process include controls to ensure that development follows the principles of Good Growth: it should drive economic growth and prosperity, respond to local needs and deliver meaningful community benefits.”

Olivia Harris, WPA Chair

Dolphin Living – Chief Executive


In summary, the key issues WPA will be looking at further are:

Simplification of the planning process

  • The designation of local land uses between growth, renewal and protection is interesting – but it is imperative that the views of businesses and need for jobs growth are also considered. This is particularly important in Central London as it is a driver of the national economy.
  • Who will be producing the design codes for the capital and how many will there have to be? Where does this leave regional planning and the London Plan?
  • Who is the arbiter of what is ‘beautiful’ for the purposes of fast-tracking developments?
  • How long will this all take to come to fruition? 3-4 years at the earliest time by which national legislation is passed and the first new Local Plans are produced.
  • Where does this leave the Draft Westminster City Plan and the EiP process given much of the Plan will need to be updated?

 

Planning fees and infrastructure levy

  • What will be the impact of planning fee charges? We have long called for the planning service to be funded entirely by development, at levels which reflect the quality and speed of service provided. The WPA pioneered the use of PPAs which are now commonplace.
  • The proposed infrastructure levy (replacing S106 and CIL) will need to be transparent, support new development, bring meaningful benefits to the local area, and importantly, continue to fund affordable and intermediate housing for workers who make Central London a vibrant and successful place.
  • The potential for infrastructure contributions to be based on a set percentage of development value seems simpler. Will scheme viability assessments be ‘swept away’ or simply replaced with valuations in determining the infrastructure levy?

 

Housing

  • The proposed temporary lifting of the small residential site threshold for affordable housing contributions could lead to a decline in the number of affordable homes in areas like Westminster.
  • The First Homes model is well-intentioned, but in high value areas like Westminster will not provide housing at affordable prices for key workers.