The Government's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) today set out departmental spending between now and 2014/15. Importantly, much of the detail of the savings were not announced today but will become apparent over the next month with the publication of departmental business plans.
Ann Skippers (pictured right), President of the RTPI said: \"The CSR is very challenging for the planning profession. Proper planning – whether carried out in the public or private sector – will be key to responding to the issues that the CSR identifies, including facilitating the development and economic growth the Government desires, enabling people to shape their local area and tackling climate change. The RTPI will continue to work with Government to demonstrate that planning is a driver rather than a barrier.\"
Substantial cuts in government spending
There are substantial cuts in government spending overall and in most departmental budgets. Expenditure on Health, Education and the Devolved Assemblies has been protected relatively. The Department of Communities and Local Government is reduced significantly: there is a 33% cut in its expenditure in real terms (51% if the devolution of budgets to councils is taken into account). Councils will face a reduction in their budgets from CLG of 28% over the period of the CSR. Capital funding to councils will fall by 45% over the same period.
The Government identified the planning system (along with banking and schools) as a key area for structural reform to support economic competitiveness, and reiterated existing government proposals:
- The Localism Bill aims to ensure that the planning system both works for sustainable growth and is responsive to the needs of local communities. As part of the wider reforms, there will be a new presumption in favour of sustainable development.
- The New Homes Bonus will go ahead– giving local authorities financial incentives intended to ensure that local communities benefit from new housing and economic development in their areas.
- There will be a reduction in the regulatory burden on the house building industry.
- There will be a National Infrastructure Plan published next week.
Although no formal announcement was made as part of the CSR, Planning Magazine and the Telegraph have both reported that the Localism Bill will not contain a third party right of appeal.
The Secretary of State's letter to Chief Executive indicates that there is new money for planning in the form of a special grant called "open source planning". A CLG spokesperson confirmed that this "funding is to support Local Authorities in the implementation" of Open Source Planning and that more would be revealed when the Localism Bill is published. The money takes the form of a special grant in the first two years which is rolled into the formula in successive years.
The overall picture was one of cuts but the government also made the following planning-related announcements:
- Investment in transport infrastructure including £10 billion on road, regional and local transport schemes; £14 billion on Network Rail; £6 billion upgrades on capital maintenance of London Underground; funding for Crossrail.
- Flagship Green projects: up to £1 billion on commercial scale carbon capture and storage demonstrations; £200m for development of low carbon technologies including wind technology and manufacturing at port sites; a Green Infrastructure Bank.
- Capital funding for over 600 schools.
- A £1.4 billion Regional Growth Fund in place of the Working Neighbourhoods Fund, Growth Area Funding and the Thames Gateway fund.
- A £530m investment to support broadband rollout.
- £2bn investment in flood and coastal erosion risk management.
- Significant changes to social housing provision including 150,000 affordable housing units over the next four years
- New powers to implement Tax Increment Financing would be forthcoming.