Planning system “is not working as well as it should be”, The Housing Forum warns
The past year has seen a crisis in housebuilding. England is “the most difficult place to find a home in the developed world” and the 232,820 homes built last year is far off the government’s target of 300,000.
The planning system is one of the main contributing factors preventing more ambitious housebuilding, and planning reform is rising up the political agenda, with Keir Starmer pledging to ‘bulldoze’ through it , and Rishi Sunak attempting to reform nutrient neutrality rules in the planning system to get more homes built.
A new report released today (Thursday 9 November 2023) by the cross-sector housing body The Housing Forum, sets out a roadmap for how the planning system can be improved. The report notes that the planning system “is not currently working as well as it should be” and presents solutions to the planning crisis in three areas:
- Building support for new housing and harnessing the benefits of planning
- Reducing burdens and improving efficiency, and
- Addressing staff shortages and improving skills.
In Building support for new housing and harnessing the benefits of planning, the report suggests creating a statutory role for the Chief Planning Officer in local authorities, embedding planners in other teams across a local authority, and integrating the role of planning within a local authority. Planners should be empowered to advocate the benefits of new housing both in terms of meeting housing need and supporting economic development of their local area.
In Reducing burdens and improving efficiency, the report lays out reforms which can be taken to the planning system to streamline it, including removing nutrient neutrality from the planning system and ensuring that developers for larger applications are provided “good and insightful” pre-planning advice.
In Addressing staff shortages and improving skills the report highlights the issues with recruiting and retaining planners in local authorities, and promotes the importance of a dedicated case officer to each planning application and matching local authority planners’ salaries to their private sector counterparts. It also calls on the government to improve routes into planning and encourage former (retired) senior planners to support local planning authorities dealing with householder applications.
We know from our membership in The Housing Forum that there are many talented and passionate planners working in local authorities and in the wider housing sector who share our ambition and want to see the benefits of new housing for their local areas.
The planning system, however, is not currently working as well as it should be and we hope that the ideas set out here offer some possible ways forward.
(Shelagh Grant, Chief Executive of The Housing Forum)
For comments please contact: Anna Clarke, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, 07442 405513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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