Halman on ... incentivising development

The local growth white paper is a good indication of the direction of travel in national planning policy.

The government has set reform in its proper context - wealth creation - and a significant part of the white paper is devoted to financial incentives.

Particularly pleasing is the recognition that housing can be an important source of economic growth. The statement that housing "could improve long-term competitiveness" and "play a key role in supporting an efficient labour market that is critical to economic growth" is welcome.

But the $64,000 question is whether the new homes bonus will encourage councils and communities to embrace residential development in their area.

Full details of the scheme are urgently required so that the transition from regional targets to a local approach can be completed effectively.

On a broader note, the white paper commits to a presumption in favour of sustainable development. The starting point is described as "a positive assumption about development to give confidence to people and greater certainty to business".

If carried through, this will help rebalance the scales. For too long developers have been expected to make a case for their proposals rather than the focus being on whether they would cause harm.

But how this will play with local communities, which are to be thrust to the heart of the new neighbourhood approach to plan-making and decisions on individual applications, remains to be seen. Experience suggests that the default position so far as new development is concerned is one of opposition. There is a lot riding on this experiment.

Gary Halman is a partner at commercial planning adviser HOW Planning LLP and a past chairman of the RICS planning and development faculty. The views expressed are his own.

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