Tag Archives: Raynsford Review

Raynsford reins in ‘patchwork’ planning system

By Kasia Banas, Consultant 

There is a ‘chaotic patchwork’ of different planning responsibilities in the country, the long-awaited Raynsford Review of the planning system warned earlier this month.

The report, which provides “a holistic appraisal of the kind of planning system that England will need from 2020 onwards”, calls for a people-centred planning system, compatible with promoting the health, wellbeing and civil rights of communities.

The esteemed former Housing Minister Nick Raynsford identifies restoring public confidence in the planning system as one of our generation’s greatest challenges. He also stipulates that visionary planning should include measures to ensure that we meet the environmental challenges such as those arising from the threat of global warming.

The proposals

The Review proposes a wide-ranging programme for a new system which can lead to greater certainty and coordination of investment, as well as protection and enhancement of people’s lives and well-being.

In the hopes of reducing inequality and inefficiency, it calls for seven “immediate actions”, which constitute part of a much more comprehensive, 24-point list of recommendations for change. Among the most significant of the “immediate actions” are:

  • scrapping proposals to introduce a new Permitted Development Right allowing commercial buildings to be demolished and redeveloped as housing
  • guaranteeing the upcoming Environment Bill and its principles are adopted within the planning system
  • giving the National Infrastructure Commission statutory powers for preparing a national planning framework for England
  • integration of new measures for residents to influence local decisions in all parts of the planning process
  • clear policy direction on the returns landowners can expect when calculating viability assessments

The list of comprehensive recommendations for change includes calls for the government to:

  • make promotion of the “long-term sustainable development of the nation and the health, safety and wellbeing of individuals” a legal purpose for the planning system
  • introduce a duty for local planning authorities to plan for high-quality and affordable homes
  • shift the responsibility for preparing National Policy Statements from government departments to the National Infrastructure Commission
  • produce a new Sustainable Development and Wellbeing Act
  • Remove hope value in market valuation through a change to the Land Compensation Act 1961

Permitted development rights

One of the most commented on proposals has been the call to “immediately restrict” the use of permitted development rights, which have been branded as ‘toxic’.

Conversions of office spaces into residential units have been allowed since 2015 under permitted development rights and have contributed to about 10% of the new homes created between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The number of new homes being brought forward through Permitted Development Rights has fallen dramatically over the last year however, with the latest stats showing a drop of 28% over the last year.

The government is currently consulting on extending these rights to high street shops, enabling their transition into residential units without planning permission.

Raynsford calls for ’return powers over permitted development to local government’, a postulate supported by the voices from the sector such as LGA’s Martin Tett or the chair of the housing, communities and local government committee Clive Betts who have also expressed their concerns around the policy’s disregard for local democracy.

Reception from the sector

The Review was met with a mixed reception and during the launch event in the House of Lords, Raynsford himself admitted the stark criticisms of the current planning system and the permitted development rights in particular, have divided opinion.

Another contentious issue has been the report’s support for the community right to challenge which has come under scrutiny because of its similarity to third party rights of appeal (TPRA).

Despite Raynsford’s assurances as to differences between what is proposed in his report and TPRA, Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said BPF does not “support the introduction of this in any guise”. Leech also has campaigned against introducing a post-permission third party right of appeal, “as it will lead to more decisions made centrally, rather than locally, and clog up the planning system.”

Other criticisms revolved around issues of overwhelming focus on the south of England, lack of emphasis on leadership, support for neighbourhood plans or the feasibility of introducing any of the report’s recommendations.

However, Roberta Blackman-Woods, Labour’s shadow planning minister, expressed her and her party’s support for the review. She was joined by a number of lawyers, local community representatives, RICS representatives and voices from the sector such as RTPI and Shelter.

Next steps

Raynsford is set to tour the country trying to meet people at all levels of government and business to introduce some of the report’s recommendations and gain a cross-party and cross-sector support for his proposals. Raynsford has his supporters but it seems he has a long way to go to gain widespread support for his proposals, figuratively and literally.