As well as the various tax changes announced by the Chancellor in yesterday's Budget, George Osborne also announced plans to radically change the planning system in 'The Plan for Growth'.
The Chancellor claimed that that the planning system had been consistently highlighted as "one of the most significant burdens" on economic growth and announced a consultation on proposals to allow changes of use, without the need to apply for planning permission, from classes B1, B2 and B8 (business, general industrial and storage) to class C3 (residential). This would allow developers to convert shops into flats without any coordinated town centre strategy.
He also said that while locals should have a greater say in planning matters, the government would be taking steps to prioritise growth and jobs. As a result, there will be new rules in favour of sustainable development with a presumption in favour of the applicant; targets for 60% of new homes to be built on brownfield or previously developed land will be removed; applications will be time limited and change of use between certain classes will be allowed.
This has been poorly received by various organisations.
Civic Voice director Tony Burton said “Effective planning is key to sustainable development and business needs the certainty and support it provides. The land for economic and housing development is already allocated and the planning permissions being given so the Government should be supporting good planning and not making it the whipping boy of our economic troubles.”
The Royal Town Planning Institute attacked the Budget's plans for ensuring that the default answer to development is 'yes', warning the measure will create an England of tin sheds and Legoland housing.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England labelled the Budget, ‘a massive threat to the environment’. The triple whammy of scrapping national brownfield targets, introducing a default yes to development, and pursuing half-baked proposals for land auctions could be devastating to treasured countryside. Neil Sinden, Director of Policy said “The proposed planning measures present a potentially devastating threat to the countryside and are unlikely to boost long-term economic growth. To suggest, as successive Governments have done, that planning is a key impediment to growth is just wrong. It is disappointing that George Osborne is repeating the mistaken assertions made by Gordon Brown.
“The planning system exists to prevent unsustainable, unwanted and environmentally damaging development. Today’s Budget is likely to undermine its ability to do this.
“Without national brownfield targets for housing we could have lost twice as much greenfield land to development over the last decade – equivalent to an area almost twice the size of Manchester. This move puts green fields unnecessarily in the path of the bulldozers.
“The Chancellor’s default ‘yes to development’ threatens both the environment and sound planning. ”