Housebuilders ‘buoyed’ as chancellor announces major planning reform

New Labour chancellor Rachel Reeves has outlined a raft of planning reforms to “get Britain building again”.

Reeves used her first speech in her new post to announce a reversal of many Conservative policies including consulting on a new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) , restoring mandatory housing targets and ending a de facto ban on onshore wind.

“Our antiquated planning system leaves too many important projects tied up for years and years in red tape before shovels even get in the ground,” she told business leaders at the Treasury.

Reeves also promised a new “growth-focused” overarching planning strategy for England, consulting on the new NPPF by the end of the month.

Outgoing housing secretary Michael Gove gave local authorities more powers to reject housebuilding in the last iteration of the NPPF in late December last year, prompting lawyer Alistair Watson to describe him as “the planning Grinch”.

Gove also watered down local housing targets, which Reeves has indicated she intends to reinstate.

Other key announcements include laxer planning barriers for onshore wind turbines and a taskforce to revive stalled housing developments.

Since 2015, onshore wind development could be blocked by a single objection from a local resident, although this policy was relaxed last September.

While Reeves was speaking, the Treasury released a policy statement confirming that onshore wind development will be considered on the same footing as other energy development from today.

The proposed new taskforce would first look to restart construction of 14,000 stalled homes in Liverpool Central Docks, Worcester Parkway, Northstowe and Langley Sutton Coalfield.

Housing secretary Angela Rayner will have a more active role in deciding on major developments. Reeves announced Rayner had already called in appeals on two data centres in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.

Reeves’ announcements garnered positive reaction from the industry.

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of policy and market insight at the National Federation of Builders, hailed the announcements as “the first step to restoring new housing supply, supporting SME builders and stopping hundreds of millions of pounds being wasted on bureaucracy”.

He added: “It cannot come at a more important time because many SMEs have seen their new-build pipelines dry up as too many councils decided they didn’t need to prove their housing allocations would deliver or didn’t want to build any more homes.

“Although there is huge work to do and many reforms weren’t covered by the speech, industry will be buoyed by a chancellor who recognises that investors cannot invest in the UK and homes cannot be built if the system stops them and hinders forward planning.”

Neil Jefferson, chief executive of the Home Builders Federation, said the housebulding industry “stands ready to support the chancellor’s ambitious plans”.

Key announcements

  • Onshore wind developments to be decided nationally rather than locally
  • New taskforce to accelerate stalled housing sites
  • Housing secretary to liaise with local mayors to review their major planning applications
  • Greenbelt boundaries to be reviewed
  • Brownfield and greybelt land prioritised for new development
  • “Critical infrastructure” policy set out in next few months
  • Prioritise progressing energy projects currently in the planning system

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