2018: The year in headlines

The most memorable news stories of the past 12 months, summarised by Richard Garlick.

Clockwise from top left: GVA acquires HOW Planning; protests against the Elephant and Castle shopping centre scheme; newly-appointed housing secretary James Brokenshire; visualisation of the Silvertown tunnel entrance; the Prime Minister launches the
Clockwise from top left: GVA acquires HOW Planning; protests against the Elephant and Castle shopping centre scheme; newly-appointed housing secretary James Brokenshire; visualisation of the Silvertown tunnel entrance; the Prime Minister launches the


Dominic Raab is confirmed as minister for housing and planning. He moves from the Ministry of Justice to replace Alok Sharma. The Conservative MP for Esher and Walton becomes the seventh new housing minister to take up the role since 2010.

A long-awaited increase in application fees for planning authorities in England comes into force. The 20 per cent across-the-board increase comes into effect on 17 January, after the regulations paving the way for the hike were approved by the House of Lords grand committee before Christmas. The change means that councils can levy application fees ranging from £96 to £300,000, up from the existing fees range of £80 to £250,000.


Future estate regeneration plans in London will be refused funding from the Greater London Authority unless proposals are approved through resident ballots, mayor Sadiq Khan declares. The mayor announces the policy in his guide to estate regeneration. It comes in the wake of a row over the London Borough of Haringey’s plans for a joint venture with developer Lendlease, which caused protests about "gentrification" in the borough.

Pole mounts that support mobile phone antennae should be viewed as radio masts, a High Court judge rules, and therefore should not be able to benefit from the part of the General Permitted Development Order that allows much telecoms equipment to be erected without planning permission.


Prime Minister Theresa May launches draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The revisions include proposals intended to make the most efficient use of urban land and boost housing delivery rates while strengthening green belt protection. Alongside the draft, the government announces a review of the planning inquiry process, with the aim of halving the time taken to reach decisions.

Housing secretary Sajid Javid says that three councils will face further scrutiny to determine whether central government intervention is required in their plan-making process. The authorities - Castle Point in Essex, Wirral on Merseyside and Thanet in Kent - were among 15 highlighted in November by Javid as taking too long to produce local plans and threatened with intervention unless they could produce explanations.


Extended permitted development rights to convert agricultural buildings into homes come into force. Under the old right, applicants could convert agricultural buildings on a single farm into a maximum of three homes with a combined floorspace of no more than 450 square metres. Under the new right, conversions of almost twice that size are possible.

James Brokenshire replaces Sajid Javid as housing secretary, following Javid’s move to the Home Office in the wake of Amber Rudd’s resignation. Brokenshire was formerly secretary of state for Northern Ireland and also held ministerial positions at the Home Office.


Transport secretary Chris Grayling approves plans by mayoral adviser Transport for London for a new road tunnel under the River Thames in east London. Grayling approves a development consent order for the Silvertown tunnel, linking the Greenwich Peninsula with the Blackwall Tunnel approach road in Newham.

Consultancy GVA acquires Manchester-based HOW Planning. Later in the year, GVA announces a deal that is intended to see it taken over by Canadian real estate firm Avison Young.


Universities will not be able to recruit students for a proposed new degree-level planning apprenticeship scheme that was due to start in September, the RTPI says. This follows the rejection of the institute’s assessment plan by the Institute for Apprenticeships, the public body responsible for approving such programmes.

Proposals for three new garden communities in Essex are found ‘unsound’ by a planning inspector, who concludes that key aspects of the delivery plan for the schemes require ‘significant’ further work. The plans had been put forward by Braintree District Council, Colchester Borough Council and Tendring District Council.


Plans for the controversial 978-home mixed-use redevelopment of London’s Elephant and Castle shopping centre are approved by the London Borough of Southwark despite protests. The approval follows planners’ conclusion that a cut in the scheme’s overall affordable housing provision would be outweighed by factors including an increase in its proposed level of social rented units.

Kit Malthouse is appointed as the new housing minister, replacing Dominic Raab, who becomes the government’s Brexit secretary. The Conservative MP for North West Hampshire moves from the Department for Work and Pensions.

The government publishes its finalised revised NPPF. The document confirms the government’s intention to introduce a new housing delivery test and a standard method of calculating housing need.


The government invites councils and developers to bid for support and funding to deliver ‘discrete new settlements’ or ‘transformational’ redevelopments of existing settlements, under criteria set out in its garden communities prospectus. The prospectus says that government will prioritise proposals for garden towns of more than 10,000 homes, but would also consider bids for garden villages providing upwards of 1,500 units.

Tougher requirements for developers to produce carbon emission assessments and to undergo design reviews are among the modifications to the draft new London Plan. The examination in public of the draft is scheduled between mid January and May 2019 with the panel report due to be published in the summer of 2019


The number of households in England is set to increase at an average annual rate of 159,000 over the next 25 years, a drop of almost a quarter compared to the previous estimates, new government figures show. Observers say the Office for National Statistics figures are likely to delay emerging local plans, but local planning authorities fighting appeals may benefit from boosts to their housing land supply figures.

New and updated guidance on plan-making and assessing housing need is published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, as part of a series of changes to its Planning Practice Guidance.


As part of its Budget announcements, the government proposes introducing new permitted development rights, allowing commercial buildings to be demolished and redeveloped as housing and more freedom for high street properties to be converted to other uses. Other significant Budget planning announcements include the promises of further changes to developer contributions, an ability for combined authorities to levy a strategic infrastructure tariff and a comprehensive national infrastructure strategy next year.

Planners should ignore the latest household growth projections when assessing their housing need and instead use the figures published two years ago, the government says in its much-awaited draft revisions to the standard method.


A new commission created by the government to promote ‘beautiful buildings’ will aim to make the planning system work ‘in support of better design and style, not against it’, the government says. The new "Building Better, Building Beautiful" commission is intended to boost the quality of the built environment as part of its drive to increase the number of new homes being built. Controversial Conservative writer and philosopher Sir Roger Scruton is appointed to chair the commission.

Just over two-thirds of councils are set to face penalties under the government’s new housing delivery test, Planning research suggests. Our analysis finds that no authorities are likely to to come under the 25 per cent delivery rate threshold and face the most severe penalty. But it finds that 38 per cent will have to produce an action plan outlining how they will boost home-building. The government is scheduled to publish its delivery test results this month, but fails to do so on time.

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