Drop plans to free developers to demolish offices for homes, says Raynsford review

The government should drop its proposal to extend permitted development to the demolition and rebuilding of office and commercial buildings, according to a review of the planning system led by former planning minister Nick Raynsford.

Nick Raynsford
Nick Raynsford

Measures unveiled in the Budget proposed introducing a new permitted development right allowing commercial buildings to be demolished and redeveloped as housing. 

The Raynsford review's recommendation to scrap the proposal is one of "seven immediate actions which could begin our journey to an effective and fair planning system", according to the review, commissioned by campaign group the Town and Country Planning Association, of which Raynsford is president.

The review is scheduled to be launched tomorrow, but an advance copy has been seen by Planning. The document says the government should return powers over permitted development to local government. "This requires minor changes to secondary legislation and should be implemented urgently," it says.

The seven "immediate actions" are part of a much more comprehensive, 24 point list of recommendations for change that the review team considers necessary to provide "the kind of planning system that England will need from 2020 onwards".

Its six other recommended "immediate actions" are:

  • ensuring that the forthcoming Environment Bill and the principles it contains are applied to the planning system
  • providing a new remit for the National Infrastructure Commission to prepare a national planning framework for England
  • supporting the government’s ambition, set out in the Civil Society Strategy, to ensure that citizens are able to influence local decisions, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government should publish comprehensive new planning guidance on how genuine public participation can be promoted in all parts of the planning process
  • organisations working in the planning and built environment sector should draw up a cross-sector compact on the values and direction of future reform of the English planning system
  • the government should set out in policy clear direction on the returns that landowners can expect when calculating viability assessments
  • the professional bodies that collectively have a hand in planning and the built environment should urgently review their ethical codes to embed the principle of ‘do no harm’

Among its more comprehensive recommendations for change, the task force call for:

  • the government to legislate to create a legal purpose for the planning system - "to positively promote the long-term sustainable development of the nation and the health, safety and wellbeing of individuals".
  • a duty to local planning authorities to plan for high-quality and affordable homes
  • responsibility for preparing National Policy Statements would shift from government departments to government advsier the National Infrastructure Commission
  • a new Sustainable Development and Wellbeing Act, to produce a simplified and consolidated piece of planning legislation.
  • legislative change to the Land Compensation Act 1961 to remove hope value as a factor in market valuation

The review team was tasked with conducting "a holistic appraisal of the kind of planning system that England will need from 2020 onwards". It began work in May 2017 and published an interim report in May 2018. The review team received more than 200 submissions.

The members of the Raynsford Review Task Force were: Nick Raynsford (chair); Maria Adebowale-Schwarte, founding director, Living Space Project; Julia Foster, managing partner, David Lock Associates; Tom Fyans, director of policy and campaigns, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE); Kate Henderson, chief executive, National Housing Federation; Lord Kerslake, president-elect, Local Government Association, chair, Peabody; Professor Yvonne Rydin, Professor of Planning, Environment and Public Policy, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London; Chris Shepley CBE, consultant and former chief planning inspector; William Upton, barrister; Pam Warhurst CBE, founder, Incredible Edible, Chair, Pennine Prospects; Finn Williams, chief executive officer and co-founder, Public Practice.

The review report was launched on Tuesday 20 November and can be downloaded in full here. 

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