However, the planning bill, which is designed to fast-track housing development, will not be introduced in time for this. It was originally due to gain royal assent in November. The government last week announced that the bill would not be passed then – as predicted by Building (see 4 April, page 12). This means that it is unlikely to gain royal assent until next February or March and local authorities will not be able to change their planning processes until next summer at the earliest. This is well past the date when Brown will reassess whether the Treasury's five economic tests have been fulfilled.
Former House Builders Federation chief executive Roger Humber said: "The planning bill is very slow coming into effect – the idea that this will make the five economic tests more achievable is nonsense."
A spokesperson for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which is handling the bill, said the planning process would be speeded up over the coming months if developers and local authorities made preparations for the changes.
The idea that the bill will be in time to make the euro tests more achievable is nonsense
Roger Humber, former HBF chief executive
He said: "Developers should not sit on land, because planning consents will soon only be valid for three, rather than five, years. And local authorities should be looking to employ more planners."
Critics have also expressed scepticism about Brown's suggestion that the planning bill should be beefed up at this stage. Mark Hoban, MP for Fareham in Hampshire, said local authorities could only make preparations for putting the act into action if they knew the details of the bill had been decided.