Consultants poll flags up green belt and levy as development obstacles

Planning consultants fear that key government policy instruments are holding back development activity, a Planning survey has revealed.

Green belt: 'needs review'
Green belt: 'needs review'

Over 90 per cent of respondents to the Planning Consultancy Survey 2014 said green belt policy imposes undue constraints and needs review. Another 57 per cent said high Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) rates are stalling construction recovery.

Neighbourhood planning is cited by 60 per cent as making it easier to resist development, up from 40 per cent in the 2013 survey.

Landmark Planning managing director Peter Wilkinson said the "pernicious" operation of green belt policy is a huge development hold-up and "needs a major overhaul".

Indigo Planning managing director Philip Villars said a review of all green belt boundaries is "long overdue".

Nexus Planning executive director Adam Ross said in some places boundary reviews would be "appropriate and beneficial" to support sustainable housing and travel choices. DHA Planning director Jonathan Buckwell said reviews should identify "whether the right land is being classified".

Spawforths chairman David Rolinson noted that some councils have not reviewed green belt for generations. "Some such as Wakefield have recognised the need for review and have full plan coverage reflecting this. Others are less supportive and this needs to change," he said.

Carter Jonas partner Nick Taylor said reviews may need a "strategic overview" across several boroughs.

On CIL, England & Lyle director Jeremy Good said some developers are avoiding certain areas over concern about levy-related costs.

Buckwell said the inflexible nature of the regime means that "it can be hard for individual circumstances to be properly taken into account".

Bidwells planning partner David Bainbridge said this inflexibility does not suit all sites, especially where older options agreements may not have factored in the levy. Villars said clients report that very high rates in some areas prevent sites coming forward. "Figures of £400 per square metre or more are a big disincentive," he said.

Rolinson said neighbourhood plans are "often used as a way to prevent rather than shape development". Bainbridge said increased ministerial intervention in cases where neighbourhood plan preparation is well advanced "adds further to the risk and cost of appeals".

Despite these concerns, 91 per cent of consultants believe the economic climate for development will improve over the next 12 months, up from 82 per cent in 2013. Another 61 per cent expect their teams to grow in the next year, against 49 per cent in 2013.

See the Planning Consultancy Survey here.

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