Queen's Speech Planning and Residential
Following the publication of the Queen’s Speech, our Senior Policy Officers Martha Kool and Sam Bensted share their views on the Planning Bill and the Tenancy Reform White Paper.
The Planning White Paper reforms are back on the front pages with a new Planning Bill included in the Queen’s Speech. More details (presumably through a formal response to the Planning for the Future consultation) are yet to be forthcoming but the associated Queen’s Speech briefing document does provide a steer on the overall direction of travel.
As widely reported in the media, the Speech confirmed that government will press ahead with their plans to zone development land into different categories and thus radically change the way in which local plans operate. However, we are still none the wiser as to how this system will work for complex urban regeneration schemes.
We had suggested previously in our response to the consultation that government should introduce a 4th land category for longer-term growth regeneration sites. A key characteristic of this additional zone would be that sites within this category would not have an outline permission allocated at plan-making stage. Details would instead be worked up over time in combination with extensive community consultation as the development proposals progress.
The Planning White Paper had an overwhelmingly strong focus on housing with little attention paid to the need to plan effectively employment uses. Whatever our new planning system looks like in the future, it will be important that the system works for commercial property as well as residential development. Although detail on this point was not forthcoming earlier this week, we are hopeful that this is reflected when government publish their formal response.
The Queen’s Speech also confirmed that government will continue with their radical overhaul of the current developer contributions system with a ‘new more predictable and transparent levy’. It is still unclear whether any new levy will take the form of the ‘Infrastructure Levy’ as originally proposed in the White Paper (i.e. a nationally set, value based, flat rate charge linked to development value.) Whatever route government go down, the history of reform in the developer contributions sphere would indicate that they have their work cut out to create a new system that is simple, but also works for all forms of development.
Tenancy Reform White Paper
The Queen’s Speech, although not providing much detail on tenancy reform, did give some much-desired clarity on the timeline ahead as the Government works towards a Bill. The most significant step will be the publication of a White Paper in Autumn. This will set out in detail the proposed reform package, including the response to the consultation on abolishing Section 21 evictions. The BPF Tenancy Reform Working Group is developing an ‘alternative grounds for eviction’ structure in anticipation of the expected outcome (the removal of Section 21) coming to fruition. Our proposal would see eviction grounds streamlined without the rights of landlords being compromised and we will put this to Government once finalised.
The Speech highlighted some other interesting concepts to be included in the White Paper, including some that wouldn’t necessarily have been expected under this government. Particularly surprising was the mention of a landlord register – something already implemented in Scotland and not a very ‘Conservative’ concept. If the Government is to implement this, the model they use will be crucial – if, like in Scotland, the register relies on landlords signing up, it will essentially only impact the ‘good’ ones willing to do so. Considering the White Paper aims to target bad landlords whilst ensuring good one aren’t penalised, this would be less than ideal.
Also included in the White Paper will be plans for a new lifetime tenancy deposit scheme, proposals to improve standards for renters, and a look into making the court system and possessions proceedings more efficient. The court reforms in particular are desperately needed and most welcomed, and it will be interesting to see what proposals are made – hopefully we’ll see ambitious and significant plans to modernise the system that will prevent ending up with future backlogs like the one faced at the moment.
It is good to see progress promised on long awaited reform, and we look forward to engaging with Government throughout the process to ensure the rights of good landlords are not forgotten.