Update on planning and capacity:Written statement - HCWS308

Department for Communities and Local Government
Made on: 04 December 2017
Made by: Alok Sharma (Minister of State for Housing & Planning)

Update on planning and capacity

Our Housing White Paper is clear that fixing our broken market requires solutions that look to the long-term. It requires action to boost local authority planning capacity to plan strategically and across local authority boundaries; to support local authorities to take a proactive role in planning for high-quality and scale; and to encourage local authority ambition and leadership in the delivery of new communities, not just new housing estates.

As part of our commitment to those goals, today I am:

  • inviting bids from local authorities and third sector organisations to a £25 million Planning Delivery Fund to support joint working, quality and innovation;

  • allocating £3 million of capacity funding to the fourteen garden villages in our programme; and,

  • publishing a consultation of Regulations which will enable the creation of locally led New Town Development Corporations, as an effective vehicle for the delivery of new garden towns.

The £25 million Planning Delivery Fund, which is now open for bids, was first announced in the Housing White Paper and will support ambitious local authorities in areas of high housing need to plan for new homes and infrastructure.

The Planning Delivery Fund will provide the most ambitious local planning authorities with the skills, capacity or capability they need to deliver high quality housing growth at scale and implement our wider planning reforms. We want to support the type of joint working and strategic planning which has been demonstrated in Oxfordshire. A commitment to bring forward for adoption a Joint Statutory Spatial Plan across authorities is part of Oxfordshire’s recently announced housing deal.

In the Housing White Paper, we announced our ambition to increase nationally set planning fees to 20 per cent. Although this will partially address the issue of planning department funds, it does not go far enough to ensure local authorities are equipped with the appropriate resources, particularly in specialist areas such as design. The Government believes that good design is fundamental to creating attractive, safe and healthy places where people genuinely want to live and to ensure development is acceptable to communities.

The Government is initially opening up £11 million of the £25 million Planning Delivery Fund for financial years 2017/18 to 2018/19, to support and encourage:

  • more and better joint working, across local authority boundaries, ensuring that there are the skills and capacity where needed to plan strategically for housing growth, and to manage delivery of new homes and infrastructure;

  • a step change in design quality of new development, as well as design advice and support to local authorities delivering growth; and,

  • innovation in the planning system, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of processes and enable the delivery of more high quality homes.

Accordingly, bids are invited for awards from three dedicated funding streams: a Joint Working Fund, a Design Quality Fund, and an Innovation Fund. A copy of the prospectus, including the funding criteria and how to submit a bid have been published (available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/planning-delivery-fund-prospectus).

Across England, we are currently supporting twenty-four locally-led garden cities, towns and villages to be exemplars of high quality, good design and best practice. Together they have the potential for approximately 220,000 homes.

Our support has helped foster ambition and innovation and to accelerate the pace of delivery, with over 10,000 new homes now started. We have provided £16 million of capacity funding to date, including an additional £2.5 million to the garden towns in our programme in October. We are now allocating a further £3 million to the fourteen garden villages in our programme to fund dedicated staff, master-planning and other studies and assessments that are key to successful, high quality delivery.

The Budget announced that we would support the delivery of another five locally led new garden towns, bringing together public and private capital and using appropriate delivery vehicles such as development corporations. We intend to publish in the Spring a prospectus inviting expressions of interest in ambitious, locally supported, proposals for high quality new garden communities at scale. We will continue to explore with local authorities opportunities for planning freedoms where these will enable additional housing growth in our garden cities, towns and villages or elsewhere. We will not be limited to supporting just five new garden communities, but will look to support as many as we can, around the country.

In line with our locally led approach, we do not wish to prescribe any particular delivery model, but to facilitate local authority leadership and ambition.

Our Housing White Paper committed to legislating to enable the creation of New Town Development Corporations, overseen by the local authority or authorities covering the area proposed for the new garden community, rather than by the Secretary of State. As bodies with statutory objectives focussed on the development of the new town and with significant independence, we consider that New Town Development Corporations are well placed to manage complex co-ordination challenges across local authority boundaries and create long term planning and investment confidence, where local authorities consider these are the right delivery vehicle.

Section 16 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 enables the Secretary of State, through an affirmative resolution statutory instrument, to appoint one or more local authorities to oversee the development of a new town by a New Town Development Corporation. It also enables the Secretary of State to make Regulations about how that oversight is to take place.

We are now consulting on a draft of those Regulations. Our focus is on ensuring that we maximise the transfer of oversight functions from the Secretary of State to the local authority or authorities and the independence of the Development Corporation, and support quality and long-term stewardship within the garden community.

Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the libraries of both Houses and is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-new-towns-act-1981-local-authority-oversight-regulations.

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