Seven key tasks in the new government's in-tray

Some key areas of unfinished business face the new Conservative government. Below, we outline seven of the most significant tasks.

The new Cabinet meeting yesterday for the first time (pic: Getty)
The new Cabinet meeting yesterday for the first time (pic: Getty)

1. Publishing the Accelerated Planning White Paper. This was due to be published in the autumn but was delayed by the general election. Observers expect that it will be published shortly. "Presumably, the Conservative government will revive the White Paper, containing things like allowing local authorities to charge higher planning application fees, providing for automatic fee rebates and tightening up on pre-commencement conditions," said Roger Hepher, director at planning consultancy hgh consulting.

2. Passing the Environment Bill. When the election was called, the Environment Bill had to be withdrawn. It will now have to be reintroduced to Parliament. The bill included a mandatory requirement for developers to secure an overall ten per cent biodiversity net gain in all new schemes, while local authorities will have to draw up spatial "local nature recovery strategies".

3. Decisions on whether to proceed with High Speed Two (HS2) and other major infrastructure projects. The new administration’s support for long-planned and nationally-significant schemes such as HS2, the Lower Thames Crossing and the third runway at Heathrow are all still to be confirmed. Another major infrastructure project whose future is now in doubt is the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, after transport secretary Grant Shapps promised a review of it during the election campaign. "With Boris assuring us that Brexit will happen at the end of January, this means that come February there will be a long list of outstanding projects for the Conservative government to get to grips with," said Charlotte Hunter, an associate at planning consultancy Iceni Projects.

4. Changes to residential permitted development (PD) rights. The poor quality of some office to residential conversions under PD rights have prompted increasingly negative media coverage. At the Tory Party conference in October, housing secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed that the government would proceed with a review of the quality of housing produced by the policy. "Presumably they will tighten it up to get rid of some of the issues," said Kathryn Hampton, senior knowledge lawyer at law firm Hogan Lovells. However, Hepher pointed out that "the prospect of upward extensions [via PD rights] still hangs in the air".

5. The secretary of state’s response to the new London Plan. The inspectors’ report on the London Plan was published in October following its examination in public earlier this year. Mayor Sadiq Khan is currently considering the inspectors’ recommendations before submitting his response and a revised version of the plan to the secretary of state. The SoS then has six weeks to either approve it or intervene. The former housing secretary James Brokenshire made a number of objections to the plan during its examination earlier this year, including challenges to its housing target.

6. Issuing a new national model design code and a response to the final report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. The final report of the independent beauty commission, which was set up by the government to look at improving design quality, is due following the election. A new national design guide was published in October, which promised that a national model design code would be issued next year with local authorities required to produce local variations.

7. Measures to reduce carbon emissions. If the government is to meet its own targets on the UK achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the planning system will have to change – something the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government acknowledges, according to Rebekah Paczek, managing director of communications consultancy Snapdragon. According to Paczek, the MHCLG’s biggest planning priority will be "the climate change agenda and the legislation that is likely to come down the line to force developers to deliver carbon neutral developments within a certain time period".


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