Relaxation of planning rules to get Britain building

Planning can be seen as a complex and bureaucratic process, this sentiment, although not necessarily borne-out by evidence, has been especially heightened following the outbreak of covid-19 and subsequent lockdown restrictions which significantly disrupted development across the country.

Set to be fast-tracked through parliament, the Government has published plans to relax some planning rules in the form of a Business and Planning Bill. David Bainbridge, a director of planning at Savills Oxford, explores how relaxing the rules might support increased productivity on site as builders strive to make up for lost ground.

For sites with planning permission, and where construction is currently taking place, a new procedure will allow longer working hours without having to undertake public consultation. Under these new guidelines builders will be able to undertake site work until 9pm Monday to Saturday, it seems likely that this could improve pace of delivery but only where there are purchasers for the new homes.

There are planning permissions that exist but have little time left in which to commence construction and for these examples the Government is bringing in the ability for developers to have an automatic extension of time. Planning permissions that are due to lapse by the end of this year will be extended to 01 April 2021.

The Government has also indicated that a White Paper will be published later in the year and set out further and far-reaching changes in planning for development. It looks likely that this paper will attempt to simplify the planning process and a proposed move towards zonal planning may put the plan-led system under threat.

Following the temporary closure of construction and sales sites many in the residential development sector will be asking for more certainty, including extension to financial assistance in the form of Help to Buy which many first-time buyers rely on.

The road to recovery will, no doubt, be long and it is reassuring to see clear sign-posting of proposed changes that will aim to support a return to normal levels of activity.