Nine key planning pledges in the Queen's Speech

Last month's Queen's Speech, the second one of 2019, included details of several policies, pledges and white papers that have implications for planners. Here are nine key promises that you need to know.

The Queen's Speech promised a raft of planning changes. Image: Wikimedia Commons
The Queen's Speech promised a raft of planning changes. Image: Wikimedia Commons

1. A planning white paper will be published in the coming months. In a briefing note published alongside the Queen's Speech, the government said the white paper is intended to "make the planning process clearer, more accessible and more certain for all users, including homeowners and small businesses". It will also "address resourcing and performance in planning departments". The Tory government has previously promised an accelerated planning green paper and floated policies including reducing the use of pre-commencement conditions by a third and offering refunds to applicants if councils take too long to issue decisions.

2. Consultation will take place on a ‘First Homes’ policy. The government said the policy is intended to offer "local people and key workers" a discount of at least 30 per cent on homes, which will be "discounted in perpetuity". Funding for the scheme will come from housing developers’ planning gain contributions. The government "will consider both planning changes and legislation in order to deliver this", the briefing note added.

3. Planning powers will be devolved to a new wave of elected mayors across England. The policy will be included in a forthcoming devolution white paper, the government said, outlining a "strategy for expanding the benefits of devolution across England, as well as putting more trust in local people to choose what is best for their communities". Promising "full devolution" across England, the government said specific policies will include "levelling up powers between Mayoral Combined Authorities, increasing the number of mayors and doing more devolution deals".

4. The government "is committed to building at least a million more homes over this Parliament". This target reiterates a promise in the Conservative election manifesto. The manifesto also said the party would continue to "progress towards our target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s", a target set by the previous administration under Theresa May.

5. A £10 billion "Single Housing Infrastructure" fund will be created to provide community infrastructure, such as "roads, schools and GP surgeries", to "support new homes". These changes, alongside the First Homes policy, will "ensure local people truly benefit from house building in their area and build support for new developments", the briefing note said. The Tory general election manifesto also said that planning rules would be amended to ensure infrastructure is built before new homes are occupied. 

6. The Environment Bill will return to Parliament. The bill was originally introduced to Parliament in the autumn but was withdrawn when the general election was called. Policies include 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".

7. A National Infrastructure Strategy will be published alongside the government’s first Budget. The government said the strategy will set out plans for £100 billion of infrastructure investment and provide details on long-term plans for "all areas of economic infrastructure including transport, local growth, decarbonisation, digital infrastructure, infrastructure finance and delivery". This strategy will represent the government’s formal response to advisory body the National Infrastructure Commission’s 2018 National Infrastructure Assessment. New strategies for the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine have also been promised.

8. The HS2 bill to allow consent for the Birmingham-to-Crew phase of the line will be revived. The High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill was first introduced to Parliament in July 2017 and completed its second reading in the House of Lords. Once brought back, the bill will continues its passage through the Lords. The bill includes compulsory purchase powers to acquire land for HS2 and creates "deemed planning permission" for phase 2a of the project.

9. A social housing white paper will be published. The paper will set out measures to "support the continued supply of social homes" and "improve the quality of social housing", the government said. A social housing green paper published in 2018 proposed strengthening planning guidance to help achieve social housing designed to a higher standard, encourage healthier communities and reduce crime.

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