Unblocking The Pipelines: Why the Chancellor’s planning reforms are long overdue

Enough of planning constipation; the system could do with a dose of ‘Montezuma’s revenge’, says Trevor Abrahmsohn

Hallelujah, at last planning reforms and not a moment too soon. Well done George!

True to his word our esteemed Chancellor, George, as promised, has today issued planning guidelines that, by all accounts, involve a major reform of the Planning Process which is long overdue. 

The truth is we are currently building a third of the private/affordable homes that we built in the 60s and less than half the amount that we need to satisfy demand in the UK and it’s no wonder why there is a housing shortage.

The Planning Departments of local councils are private fiefdoms for “tin-pot” officials and parochial councillors who are more concerned with their own electoral opportunities and petty politics (with a good sprinkling of nimbyism) and as such the presumption to any application is “no” rather than “yes”. 

As such the presumption to any application is “no” rather than “yes”

When you are able to get past “first base” in the labyrinthine planning process you are besieged with “tree huggers” and a posy of environmental conditions that will “bind you up” against the most powerful laxative.

Is it any wonder that at one end of the system there are a lot of applications but very few appear at the other end. Eric Pickles, in his days as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, executed a miraculous “quick fix” on permitted development for offices and this has accelerated a lot of much needed residential development and is the kind of remedy that we are hoping these measures will introduce. 

Having the ability to build more storeys on residential properties without Planning Consent will intimidate the Planners (a very welcome outcome) and they will quickly learn that if they are not efficient at what they are meant to do the adjudication will be taken from them. Hooray! 

If Local Authorities want to filibuster with applications then the DOE will by pass them altogether particularly with Brown Field sites and this is a big ‘thumbs up’ for common sense.

Stamp Duty is now set at draconian levels (particularly at the upper ranges) and, in some instances, you now only move when you have to; extending ones existing home is that much more viable since the Stamp Duty changes in the Autumn Budget of 2014. You could add a significant amount of accommodation (probably up to a third in some cases) without the need to move and, when it is time to sell, you could achieve many times the cost of the works tax-free and these measures will make this process much more efficient.

My message to you George is: well done, keep going, there are still a lot of other planning measures that you need to crunch before the back log of development flows through and helps the UK to build more homes again!

We have had enough of planning constipation now we want a dose of “Montezuma’s revenge”!

Trevor Abrahmsohn is Managing Director of Glentree International

glentree.co.uk

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