Chancellor says ministers are in talks with 38 authorities about proposal to liberalise planning rules

Senior housing sector figures have cautiously welcomed Kwasi Kwarteng’s announcement of a streamlined planning process but called for reform across the whole country and not just in designated “investment zones”.

As part of his radical growth plan, the chancellor announced this morning the setting up of investment zones with liberalised planning rules and targeted tax cuts to spur development, including new housing. The government is in discussions with 38 mayoral combined authorities and upper-tier councils which have expressed an interest in having a zone in their area.

Paul Smith, managing director of the Strategic Land Group, said there was ”no doubt the planning system can be streamlined and made more efficient without diluting the important protections it provides”.


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Housebuilders want planning applications speeded up and say the current system is far too slow

But he added: “There is no reason, however, why planning applications inside investment zones should be treated any differently to those outside them. We have a growth crisis, and a reformed planning system that focuses on what really matters is needed across the country.”  

According to Smith, the key obstacle to building homes is insufficient land allocated for development.

Nicholas Harris, chief executive of social housing firm Stonewater, said the zones were “a step in the right direction” as planning barriers have contributed to the housing crisis.

He added: “I would be hopeful and would urge Kwarteng to expand this initiative to the whole country at the earliest opportunity so as to avoid a postcode lottery on personal taxation initiatives, and so we can build more homes for people that need them.”

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Colin Brown, head of planning and development at consultant Carter Jonas, questioned the impact of the measures if they only applied to some designated areas. “Another question that this policy raises relates to how much of the activity will be ‘displacement’ of existing economic activity rather than new development,” he said. “Will adjoining areas be deprived of investment at the expense of their neighbours and how will they develop as a result?”

Bradley Tully, senior public affairs officer at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said the plans were “positive” and also welcomed the chancellor’s pledge to increase the disposal of surplus land for development.

Kwarteng said that the government would also bring forward legislation to speed up the delivery of infrastructure by reducing “unnecessary burdens”.

He said the government would “unpick the complex patchwork of planning restrictions and European Union-derived laws which constrain our growth”.

He added: “We will streamline a whole host of assessments, of appraisals, of consultations, endless duplications and regulations.”

Growth plan: key measures at a glance

  • Investment zones The government will work with the devolved administrations and local partners to introduce investment zones across the UK. Such areas will benefit from “tax incentives, planning liberalisation and wider support for the local economy”.
  • Stamp duty cut The duty-free threshold will rise from £125,000 to £250,000. The first-time buyer threshold increases from £300,000 to £425,000. First-time buyer stamp duty relief will be available for properties up to £625,000 rather than £500,000.
  • Land disposal The government will promote the disposal of surplus public-sector land by allowing departments greater flexibility to reinvest the proceeds of land sales over multiple year.
  • Faster delivery Legislation will be brought forward in the coming months to reduce “unnecessary burdens” to speed up the delivery of infrastructure. This includes reducing the “burden of environmental assessments” and “bureaucracy” in the consultation process, reforming habitats and species regulations and increasing flexibility to make changes to a development consent order once it has been submitted.

The prospect of new legislation has led some to speculate whether the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which is currently going through parliament, will be ditched. Stuart Tym, planning partner at law firm Shoosmiths, said: “The confirmation that a bill is set to be brought forward to ‘unpick’ the wider planning system may signal the end of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and its planning proposals.

“The Chesham and Amersham by-election result [won last year by the Lib Dems with a swing of 25.2%] may have made that approach to de-regulation unpalatable; which remains the political lens through which further reform must be viewed.”

List of authorites to express an interest in investment zones

  • Blackpool Council
  • Bedford Borough Council
  • Central Bedfordshire Council
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • Cornwall Council
  • Cumbria County Council
  • Derbyshire County Council
  • Dorset Council
  • East Riding of Yorkshire Council
  • Essex County Council
  • Greater London Authority
  • Gloucestershire County Council
  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority
  • Hull City Council
  • Kent County Council
  • Lancashire County Council
  • Leicestershire County Council
  • Liverpool City Region
  • North East Lincolnshire Council
  • North Lincolnshire Council
  • Norfolk County Council
  • North of Tyne Combined Authority
  • North Yorkshire County Council
  • Nottinghamshire County Council
  • Plymouth City Council
  • Somerset County Council
  • Southampton City Council
  • Southend-on-Sea City Council
  • Staffordshire County Council
  • Stoke-on-Trent City Council
  • Suffolk County Council
  • Sunderland City Council
  • South Yorkshire Combined Authority
  • Tees Valley Combined Authority
  • Warwickshire County Council
  • West of England Combined Authority
  • West Midlands Combined Authority
  • West Yorkshire Combined Authority