As government unveils planning proposals, planners and housebuilders complain that it has been ‘far too long’

The government this week finally unveiled long-awaited proposals to update England’s planning system, amid fierce criticism from planners and housebuilders who said it had taken “far too long”.

The ODPM first looked at changes to the “planning gain”, or section 106, part of the planning system in December 2001 and then at PPG3 in July 2003. Planners have said this has left them unsure of how to proceed.

Building has learned that, as a result, a number of local authorities have simply stopped carrying out housing assessments as they are waiting for firm guidance from the ODPM on how best to complete them.

Robin Tetlow, director of planning consultancy Tetlow King, said: “I feel extremely fed up with all of this paperwork and all of these delays.

“None of the proposed changes to PPG3 will be in place before the end of next year. The first consultation came out in July 2003, so it will have taken the government three years to get the system as it wants it. That is far too long.

“As a consequence we are only delaying the provision of the affordable housing that the government wants – it only has itself to blame when the figures reflect this.”

Ian Robertson, chief executive of housebuilder Wilson Bowden, said: “We are disappointed in how long it has taken to get to this stage.”

However Robertson echoed the sentiments of most housebuilders when he said that reverting to a system where local authorities

must provide enough land for five years of housebuilding “was very welcome indeed”.

A spokesperson for the ODPM said: “We are not going to be rushed into reforms. If you want a more modern and effective planning system then it takes time.”

Key points of planning announcement

  • Regional assemblies to decide housing numbers and allocate targets to newly identified “housing markets” made up of individual local authorities

  • Unclear whether local authorities or developers will be responsible for determining mix of housing on a scheme

  • Local authorities must identify sufficient land to deliver required amount of housing over next five years – as was the case prior to March 2000 – and add to it if required

  • Treasury published a document setting out and backing the case for more homes

  • Strengthened controls on planning in green-belt areas

  • Planning gain guidance updated but subject to change if Treasury implements the planning gain supplement proposed by Kate Barker. Report into planning gain found that extra 2300 homes could be delivered each year through section 106 agreements