Presumption in favour of development contains tension between expediency and localism, say commentators

The government today released a statement on its set of proposals of changes to the planning regime but industry commentators pointed to inherent contradictions in the proposition.

The “presumption in the favour of development” favours having local plans in place with the government claiming that it will incentivise communities and councils to keep their plans up to date, speed up the process and give developers greater certainty.

Planning minister Greg Clark said:

“Britain urgently needs new homes, new green energy and transport links, and space for businesses to grow. By putting this presumption at the heart of our new framework we will give the planning system a wake up call so the right sort of development, that everyone agrees is needed, gets approval without delay.

“This change to planning policy will speed up development, while placing a strong emphasis on the protection of the environment and local communities’ interests. By insisting on sustainable growth we can help make sure that what we build today leaves a positive legacy for future generations.”

But Peter Weatherhead, director of planning at global real estate adviser DTZ, argued that there was an “inherent conflict” between speeding up the planning process and promoting localism.

“It is welcome that the government is sending the message that there should be a presumption in support of sustainable development.  However, there seems to be an inherent conflict between the default position of permission being granted in the absence of an up-to-date plan and the emphasis on localism and local people taking responsibility for shaping their areas.

“Anything that removes a planning policy vacuum should be supported, but the localism agenda seems set to continue to breed uncertainty for developers.

“For some time now, most developers have been arguing that their proposed developments are sustainable. The government will need to define what it means by sustainable development for this presumption to make any real difference.”

Dr Adam Marshall, director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said that business would withold judgment on its effectiveness until the proposals were implemented.

“Business expects a ’presumption in favour’ of development to be precisely that - a presumption in favour.

“The drive to make ‘yes’ the default answer to development will be supported by business. However, we will watch closely to ensure that this policy results in simpler, faster, and more transparent planning decisions on the ground.

“Year after year, companies across England tell us that planning and related consents slow both expansion and job creation. The new presumption and the new National Planning Policy Framework must deliver real clarity, so that business can deliver local growth.”