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Hot Topic Highlight – Planning White Paper

Updated: Dec 8, 2020



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What is this week's blog about?


In this week’s blog, we take a look at the Government’s Planning White Paper, Planning for the Future. You can download a full copy here.


This is essential reading for RICS APC and AssocRICS candidates on the Planning & Development pathway, as well as any candidates with any involvement with the planning process or development work.



When was the White Paper published?


The White Paper was published on 6 August 2020. Consultation on the proposed changes closed on 29 October 2020.


Why was the White Paper published?


The White Paper was published to address issues relating to the current planning system.


These are summarised by the Prime Minster in the foreword to the White Paper; ‘Thanks to our planning system, we have nowhere near enough homes in the right places. People

cannot afford to move to where their talents can be matched with opportunity. Businesses cannot afford to grow and create jobs. The whole thing is beginning to crumble and the time has come to do what too many have for too long lacked the courage to do – tear it down and start again’.


The White Paper, therefore, proposes radical reform to the current planning system to that it remains fit for purpose. This involves ensuring that the right land is available in the right places and for the right form of development.


What problems does the current planning system face?


The White Paper outlines a number of challenges faced by the existing planning system including:

  • An overly complex system which creates risk and uncertainty, particularly for smaller developers

  • Planning decisions which tend to be discretionary and assessed on a case-by-case basis rather than in line with clear and consistent rules. This leads to increased planning risk and costs of development

  • Delays in Local Plans being adopted, with only 50% of Local Authorities having one in place by June 2020. The average preparation time is 7 years, meaning that policies are often out of date as soon as the Local Plan becomes adopted

  • Complexity and a lack of transparency relating to assessments of housing need, viability and environmental impacts. These are often based on long-term ‘need’ projections which are often contested and do not provide a robust basis for the scale of development planned

  • A lack of public trust and confidence in the planning process, particularly for the determination of large developments by Local Authorities

  • A lack of innovation and development in technology, which creates delays and a lack of quality in the planning process

  • Complex and protracted negotiations relating to developer contributions for affordable housing and infrastructure

  • A lack of focus on design and quality of development

  • Insufficient new homes being built, particularly in areas with the highest needs


The limitations of the current planning system lead to poor outcomes, which the White Paper’s proposals seek to address.


What proposals are made within the White Paper?

This is not an exhaustive list as the proposals are numerous and wide ranging. However, we have highlighted ten of the key changes proposed by the White Paper:

  1. Zoning introduced in Local Plans, categorised into growth, renewal and protected areas

  2. National development management policies introduced, with the role of Local Plans altered. Neighbourhood Plans retained to maintain community input

  3. The existing Local Plan test of soundness replaced with a single statutory test of ‘sustainable development’

  4. Standard method introduced for establishing housing requirement figures, which would factor in land constraints and opportunities

  5. Growth zoned areas automatically granted outlined planning permission for the principle of development

  6. Technology and innovation improved to speed up decision making. This includes Local Plans becoming visual and map-based

  7. A statutory timetable introduced for key stages of the planning process, relating to the actions of Local Authorities and the Planning Inspectorate

  8. Section 106 agreements no longer used and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) being altered

  9. Local design codes produced by Local Authorities to improve design quality and place making

  10. Local Plans implemented within a reduced timescale of 30 months by Local Authorities


How can we help?



Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.


N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.