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News & opinion

1 NOV 2018

Budget 2018: Promises to plan

Geoff White RICS

Geoff White

Policy Manager (North & Midlands)

Newcastle, UK


In the planning regime, much of the detail extract from this year's Budget focused on the government’s plan to help our High Streets and follows up on changes already made or promised in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Many would say it is too little too late to help retailers come to terms with the revolution we are seeing in shopping habits from high street to online. The race to make it easy to convert empty commercial premises into new homes is also a cause for concern, both in terms of quality and master planning.

Also worth looking at is the government’s response to the consultation on reforms to developer contributions, published this week by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. This builds on reforms to developer contributions made to viability assessment earlier this year through the NPPF and accompanying guidance.

Planning highlights from the Chancellor’s Budget Paper

Permitted Development Rights

While the government has already revised the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), implementing 85 of the proposals set out in the Housing White Paper and Autumn Budget 2017, the Chancellor announced a consultation on new permitted development rights to allow upwards extensions above commercial premises and residential properties, including blocks of flats, and to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes.

While RICS recognises the contribution made to new homes through permitted development rights, we urge caution when extending such rights. Recent research commissioned by RICS discovered several problems in terms of quality and design of commercial-to-residential conversions and further rights should not be given until this has been fully considered.

Developer contributions and capturing land value uplift

A simpler system of developer contributions is to be introduced to provide more certainty for developers and local authorities, while enabling local areas to capture a greater share of uplift in land values for infrastructure and affordable housing. Reforms include simplifying the process for setting a higher zonal Community Infrastructure Levy in areas of high land value uplift and removing all restrictions on Section 106 pooling towards a single piece of infrastructure. A Strategic Infrastructure Tariff for Combined Authorities and joint planning committees with strategic planning powers has also been announced.

Power to the parishes

Parishes and communities will be empowered to provide many more homes for local people to buy, at prices they can afford. The Localism Act allows people who know their area best to come together to prepare neighbourhood plans and development orders, to ensure they get the right homes, in the right places. The government will provide £8.5m of ‘resource’ so up to 500 ‘neighbourhoods’ can allocate or permission land for homes sold at a discount.

However, how this will work is unclear, as there are more than 10,000 registered parishes in England alone, Wales have ‘communities’ rather than parishes and the Scottish equivalent of English civil parishes are community council areas. So, on the face of it, the funding will reach fewer than 5% of parishes and provide an average ‘resource’ of £17,000 per parish.

Help for the High Streets & Heritage

The Chancellor announced the launch of the Future High Streets Fund to invest £675m – in England only – to develop and fund plans to improve high streets. This will cover town centre infrastructure, including better access, and support redevelopment and densification. £55m is earmarked for heritage-based regeneration. The fund will also establish a new High Streets Taskforce to disseminate best practice.

In the RICS wishlist, we called on the Government to place an emphasis on the struggling High Street, which has seen a myriad of performance restricting obstacles, such as the financial crisis recent revaluation, competition from online shopping and, of course, Brexit. As such, this Fund is welcome news.

Modernising change of use

Modern high streets need to change with the times but outdated ‘change of use’ rules slow the process down often leading to empty commercial premises. The government is to launch a consultation on creating a more flexible and responsive ‘change of use’ regime with new Permitted Development Rights that make it easier to establish new mixed-use business models on the high street. It will also trial a register of empty shops with selected local authorities, and trial a brokerage service to connect community groups to empty shops. This is likely to be based on the PDRs which have led to many commercial premises being converted into homes without the need for planning permission. We have called on the government to review PDRs because RICS commissioned research shows examples of inappropriate and poor-quality conversations and this also removes the power from local authority planners to plan and control the future of their high streets.

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Geoff White RICS

Geoff White

Policy Manager (North & Midlands)

Newcastle, UK


Geoff is part of the RICS UK External Affairs team which addresses policy, public affairs and press activity to support the organisation’s aims of building influence, credibility and profile to gain recognition of professional standards. Working closely with RICS members, Geoff identifies the challenges and opportunities facing those working in the profession in order to support the delivery, within a public interest mandate, of a vibrant and sustainable land, property and construction sector.

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