Town Planning & the Election Results 2015

Refreshingly, whilst the planning system has undergone a lot of changes in the last 20 years, it appears that the newly re-elected Conservative government will be focusing more on the delivery of new housing and the continued reinforcement of the current system, than implementing further alteration. For an industry sector which has seen a great deal of reform in recent years, it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn that there are to be no immediate radical changes to the planning system under the Conservatives.

One of the biggest consequences of the election result is the shift away from Greenbelt development, prompting more activity and a heightened focus on Brownfield sites. Previously, Thatcher Associates published an article detailing the way in which Greenbelt development restriction were severely impacting the availability for new housing and the development market as a whole. Now, with the advent of a majority Conservative government, the likelihood of the initiatives proposed in their manifesto seeing the light of day has dramatically increased.

What Have The Conservatives Proposed?

The establishment of a £1 billion Brownfield regeneration fund, dedicated to unlocking the development of homes on previously developed land. This will require Brownfield land to be used as much as possible, to avoid unnecessary Greenbelt developments.

  • The development of new towns and garden cities – protecting Greenbelt areas.
  • 200,000 starter homes for first time buyers under 40, sold at 80% of the market price. This might require new approaches to be adopted when it comes to securing contributions and coordinating the sale of publicly owned land – since starter homes are exempt from planning gain requirements.
  • A pledge to grant planning permission to 90% of the available Brownfield sites by 2020 – this pledge is, however, dependent on the submission of planning applications and the availability of assistance with land assembly.

The Flip Side

Unfortunately, the risk of conflict with councils looms, as housebuilding targets force local authorities to allocate development sites in Greenbelt areas.

There have been questions as to whether the government has the tools to follow through with their pledges on the appropriate scale. With the Tories seizing full control of 28 local councils, the strong support for the Greenbelt does seem likely to mean less development and a continuation of the review of Greenbelt land instituted under the former coalition regime.

It is likely that pressure will mount against inner-city green spaces, and that councils will respond by instigating further reviews of Greenbelt land for potential development – faced with an ever increasing necessity for new housing.

With many local councils taking big budget cuts this year, accessing the New Homes Bonus and council tax revenue has become a priority. Building more homes provides a great solution, but may mean that Conservative councils will increasingly turn to the private sector for further support – effectively outsourcing their planning services.

Only time will tell of the effect the new approach to development and planning will have on the relationships between Westminster and the local authorities, and it will be intriguing to see what proportion of the promises set forth in the Conservative manifesto manage to be feasibly fulfilled.

Thatcher Associates recruit for a wide range of Planning and Development positions across the UK, in both the public and private sectors. The surge of demand for skilled professionals that we are witnessing to tackle new development projects means that we are currently experiencing a high volume of vacancies. We are fortunate to work closely with a wide range of reputable employers and premium planning consultancies who are in hiring mode this year!