Jenrick commits to planning fast-track for 'beautiful' schemes and NPPF changes

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has committed to implementing a "fast track for beauty" in the planning system and said many of the recommendations made by a government-commissioned review on improving design quality can be made "quite quickly" by amending the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick. Pic: Getty Images
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick. Pic: Getty Images

In a speech at yesterday’s launch of the final report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, Jenrick said high quality designs should be given preferential treatment when applications are being considered.

The commission’s recommendations include making the "detailed planning application stage" for a development "relatively straightforward" if it complies with "site-specific design policy" in a local plan or a supplementary planning document.

Jenrick suggested that the proposal could be brought forward via revisions to the NPPF. 

He said "I will establish a "fast track for beauty" where individuals and developers, who have put in the time to create proposals for well-designed buildings, and which use high quality-materials which take account of their local setting, can see their developments proceed at pace. 

He added: "It can’t be right that those individuals, those people who should be held up as the best and the brightest - people who are setting out to create communities as shining cities on a hill - that those individuals to be held up by the planning system and to be treated like the rest.

"They should receive an expedited planning process or even be removed from the planning system altogether with new, more sophisticated planning freedoms. 

"The planning system must reward good design." 

Responding to questions after his speech, the secretary of state said that "the lion’s share" of the commission’s recommendations are "things that we can and should do". 

"Many" of the recommendations can be done "quite quickly" through regulatory changes such as amending the NPPF, he said: "We are able to make changes relatively swiftly through updating the planning framework," he said. "So there are a number of important changes here that can be taken forward quite swiftly." 

Jenrick said the government’s response to the commission’s report, which would be published "very quickly" in the "coming months", will distinguish the recommendations which can be taken forward immediately from those requiring further consideration and where the government "respectfully" disagrees. 

He also said in his speech that the government will consider changes to "incentivise" developers to raise their standards. 

Jenrick said some recommendations would involve changes to taxation, such as harmonising the VAT rate on new build and refurbished properties, which he will discuss with Sajid Javid, chancellor of the exchequer.

Jenrick also said concerns about design will be taken into in any changes the government makes to the permitted development rights regime. 

He said: "The two can be married together…Creating an expedited route for high quality, beautiful development I think will have a bearing on our future approach to permitted development rights. 

"There is a way forward where if developers meet high standards, perhaps in a design code, that they can be offered a faster route through the planning system and greater freedom at the same time."

The secretary of state also said he will meet government agency Homes England to discuss the report’s criticisms of the agency. 

But he warned against overstating Homes England’s significance in boosting housing design quality, pointing out that it is involved in a "small percentage" of the homes that are built. 

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