The planning system in the Uk doesn’t work well.
Many people dislike it because they still end up with too much development on their doorsteps. They do not like the density, location and style of much of the building near them.
Many developers dislike it, because it entails them spending a lot of money on planning advisers and lawyers. The system is prone to delay and cost before they get the permissions they seek.
In recent years the planning system and the general economic circumstances have conspired to produce very high house prices and a very low build rate by historical standards. The last government forced large numbers of prospective new houses on parts of the country that did not want them through their regional plans, but still the build rate remained way below what they said they wanted. People seeking a home do not like the system as a result.
Because house prices are high and planning permissions for new homes limited, land values with planning permission are also very high. Many people feel the system is unfair. They feel that only the rich and powerful developers at one end and those who are prepared to break or bend the law at the other get the valuable permissions. Success in the planning lottery can turn cheap land into a very valuable commodity, making a six figure or even a seven figure sum of profit from just one acre with permission to build houses.
The big developers just spend and spend on planning advice and lawyers, pushing until the system in enough places gives them the permssions they need to carry on their business. Some people build on land without permssion, or push and push from a barn or commercial premises or a single property until they have dwellings on the plot they have acquired at agricultural or derelict land or other lower prices. This is why so many law abiding people who stick to the rules feel it is unfair. They might have their application for a conservatory or garden wall turned down for dubious reasons and have to live with the decision.
I will not restate the long arguments we had on this site under the last government which set out why high house prices were largely the result of the crazy money policy pursued up to 2007. It was the authorities approach to money, credit and bank regulation which led to the mortgage bonanza, lending more money at ever higher multiples of income driving house prices up.
This week I want to look at the issue of how the planning system should be changed to try to make more people happy with it.
The government has proposed two main changes. The first is a democratic override to deal with the sense that many have that the system allows too many homes to be built in the wrong places. Local communities will be able to have a referendum to approve or veto new development in a village. It will require 80% to vote in favour. The second is an incentive to Council planning authorities to allow more homes to be built by offering them extra money to spend based on how many extra homes they build.
What do you think of these ideas? I will set out some other possibilities later this week.