Long-term plan for housing – the story so far

What is the current state of planning? CLA Planning Adviser Shannon Fuller explains what recent developments have been made by government
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Following on from Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove’s speech in July, which announced the government’s ‘long-term plan for housing’, we look back on what has happened over the past few months.

The speech set out the direction of travel for planning and concentrated on the regeneration of town and city centres, but it also committed to a package of planning reform. The CLA called for some of this reform in the Rural Powerhouse campaign and within the report on Levelling up the rural economy for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Rural Business and the Rural Powerhouse.

Relaxation of permitted development rights

The speech announced a consultation on “new and expanded permitted development rights to maximise the potential of existing buildings for new homes.”

The consultation on permitted development rights (PDRs) proposed amendments to various types of development and focused on housing delivery, the agricultural sector, high streets and open prisons. The CLA responded to this consultation and focused on those categories that will have an impact on the rural economy, specifically the expansion of the existing Class Q and R PDRs which enable the change of use of agricultural buildings to residential or commercial use.

Interestingly, the consultation welcomed views as to whether these rights should be extended to other rural buildings such as stables rather than constricted to agricultural buildings only, something the CLA supports.

Perhaps the most positive aspect of the consultation was the proposal for the introduction of Class Q PDR in Article 2(3) land, opening up the opportunity for barn conversions in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and National Parks. A CLA planning survey earlier this year identified that 58.4% of members living in protected landscapes wish they could convert their buildings but cannot due to current planning restrictions. We support proposals to amend this is as it could enable much needed and highly demanded for new homes in rural communities.

The consultation also proposed amendments the existing PDRs for agricultural development such as new agricultural buildings. This would give farmers greater flexibility with the existing size limits of new buildings and extensions by increasing them from 1000sqm to 15000sqm to further enable sustainable growth of farms to bring them in line with modern day agricultural practices.

The PDR consultation also included a call for evidence on planning barriers to nature based solutions, farm efficiency projects and farm diversification. Not only does this expand on the Farm to Fork Summit that took place No.10 in May this year, it also demonstrates to us that Defra and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) are working collaboratively to seek solutions to the various planning issues that have been preventing growth in the rural economy.

The consultation ended on 25 September 2023 and the CLA’s response can be found here.

Reforming the local plan process

The speech was also followed by the launching of a consultation on plan-making reform. Whilst this consultation did not focus on encouraging any particular forms of development, it highlighted the process of preparing and examining local plans that will then form the policy basis for which planning applications are assessed.

The consultation outlined the proposals to implement parts of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (now the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act) that relate to plan-making. Specifically, the consultation proposed to ensure local planning authorities (LPAs) have single local plans rather than multiple documents that are more accessible and prepared within a 30-month timeframe. It also proposed new ‘gateway assessments’ and supplementary plans as well as a pilot of community land auctions.

The CLA’s response to this consultation was informed by discussions with members on our Business and Rural Economy Committee. It focused on our concerns regarding the resourcing of planning departments and their ability to implement this new reform as well as the proposed pilot of Community Land Auctions.

The consultation ended on 18 October and the CLA’s response can be found here.

Planning Skills Delivery Fund

Gove acknowledged within his ‘long-term plan for housing’ speech that in order to support communities and deliver homes rapidly, investment is required in quality planning. As such, a new ‘Planning Skills Delivery Fund’ of £24m was also announced and forms part of a wider pre-existing ‘Capacity and Capability Programme’. The Planning Skills Delivery Fund is available over a two-year period to help LPAs implement proposed planning reform and also improve development management services by addressing backlogs of planning applications. The fund is also intended to contribute to addressing gaps in planning skills.

Local authorities were able to apply through the summer of 2023 for the first year of funding of up to £100,000 which is to be used to resolve backlog issues and/or towards skills funding. These applications were assessed by DLUHC in September and announcements of successful local authorities was expected in October.

Key contact:

Shannon Headshot
Shannon Fuller Planning Adviser, London