Think-tank calls for simplified planning 'pink zones' to boost new housing

Simplified planning zones should be established to encourage more and better-quality housing, according to a new report.

Construction: report says 'pink zones' would smooth planning system
Construction: report says 'pink zones' would smooth planning system

The study by free market think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies describes the UK’s planning system as "unwieldy" and "not fit for purpose", stifling economic growth and limiting housing supply.

To accelerate housing growth, the report calls for the setting up of "pink zones", so-called because they would provide "a diluted regulatory regime compared with the red tape that characterises the current paralysed planning system".

It states: "Pink zones are intended to provide a simplified planning system for the construction of vibrant, attractive and prosperous new residential developments underpinned by social infrastructure."

According to the report, written by economist Keith Boyfield, together with barrister Daniel Greenberg, pink zones would be set up by a council or group of councils, or a developer "frustrated about the regulatory planning hurdles that prevent them from progressing a specific scheme".

A site would be identified and a delivery authority, called a "special purpose vehicle" (SPV), created that could be linked to one or more of the councils involved.

The SPV, which would be disbanded once the scheme is built, would co-ordinate development and negotiate both contracts with developers and covenants to ensure design standards.

The report says the scheme’s design code would be agreed between stakeholders including local residents.

Those living nearby would also be directly compensated, the report suggests.

The report says pink zones would "build on" existing planning tools, including the fast-track major infrastructure regime introduced by the Planning Act 2008.

The regime for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) "offers a legislative driver that enables large-scale development on the back of a single streamlined consent mechanism, capable of taking account of local interests and national concerns at the same time".

The document also proposes amending the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) development tariff "to incentivise development that provides mutual benefits for developers and for the wider community".

The report says the New Towns Act 1981 could be used for "planning and land-acquisition, as well as infrastructure development, but with expanded aims including modern expectations of sustainability, amenity and opportunity".

The report states that pink zones could "reduce pressure on overworked local authority officials" and "provide a means by which councillors can meet the housing supply targets set by the local plan regime … in a positive manner".

According to Boyfield, the zones could also "trigger institutional funding for investment in new housing" from investment bodies such as life insurance companies, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and charities.

He said: "Ultimately, pink zones would create more and better homes for people throughout the country and tackle the poverty of aspiration which typifies much residential construction in this country.

"People would be happier and the country would be richer."

The report, Pink Planning, can be found here.

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