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RTPI responds to Autumn Statement

03 December 2014

The Chancellor made a series of announcements today covering the economy, jobs and growth. Emphasis this year was on providing extra money for the health service, flood defences and new road building, plus a raft of proposals to create a ‘Northern powerhouse.’ He also promised however, ‘very substantial further expenditure savings’ in future years.

As part of the latest National Infrastructure Plan ahead of the statement, announced yesterday, a number of further reforms to the planning system were also set out, intended to help speed up the planning process further and support growth. Proposals for the Government to directly commission the building of houses on state-owned land was another eye catching measure.

Cath Ranson, President of the RTPI, said: “The promise of further cuts in expenditure is a concern given a recent National Audit Office reporting a 46% reduction in spending on planning and development services. We welcome in principle the new package of planning measures but will need to see the detail of what is proposed. We are ready and willing to work with all parties to ensure planning teams are properly resourced to achieve sustainable growth.”

The promise of further cuts in expenditure is a concern given a recent National Audit Office reporting a 46% reduction in spending on planning and development services.

George _osborne _hi

Chancellor’s speech

Autumn Statement

Written statement on new measures for house building

Scotland Office statement

Wales Office statement

Northern Ireland Office statement

Written statement containing planning reforms. 

What planners need to know about the Autumn Statement

Quick reaction points

-       The government recognises the role that underused public land can play in delivering new homes. The government has increased its ambition for public sector land and will release land with capacity for up to 150,000 homes between 2015 and 2020. The government will also support Bicester to provide up to 13,000 new homes subject to value for money.

-       Further savings in public spending are likely in the future despite planning teams already being hard hit, which could cause a slowdown in growth

-       Osborne announced expanding Church Roof Repairs Fund worth £15 million across the UK for newly listed places of worship which could assist to local communities adding to its heritage and tourism.

-       Government consulting on expanding tax credits expanded to orchestras recognising cultural value and artistic importance

-       Relief for high street small businesses by extending the doubling of Small Business Rate Relief to April 2016; around 385,000 of the smallest businesses will continue to receive 100%

-       relief from business rates until April 2016

-       Larger share of GDP being invested in infrastructure investment – more foreign infrastructure investment than anywhere in world

-       Chancellor encourages other local authorities to follow Greater Manchester’s lead (10 local authorities working together) declaring his door is open for others to come forward.

-       Stamp duty has been decreased for low and middle income families including no tax on first £125,000. Overall the duty will be cut for 98% of those who pay it.       

Response to planning measures

  • taking forward measures to ensure that the principle of development need only be established once;

We believe that this principle is already enshrined in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) but we would be pleased to work with Government to add such clarity as may be required. Certainly hard-working local planning staff are presently overstretched and under-resourced – as noted in the recent Home Builders Federation submission to the Chancellor as well as the NAO report ‘The impact of funding reductions on local authorities’ – and ensuring that more applications for permission match from the outset with local planning policies would greatly help speed the route to planning approvals.

  • taking steps to speed up section 106 negotiations through revised guidance, consulting on a new arbitration process, considering introducing timescales for agreement, and improving transparency on the use of section 106 funds; 

We appreciate that over time the process of arriving at a Section 106 Agreement has become embroiled in complexity and revised guidance would be welcomed. However we would again wish to note that the process is one of negotiation and local authorities should not be disadvantaged in ensuring proper accommodating works for new planning consents.

  • keeping  the speed of decisions on major applications under review, with the minimum performance threshold increasing to 50% of major decisions on time as performance improves; 

We appreciate that effective decision making must be at the heart of the local planning system but an effective system relies on more than just speed. It would be helpful if the monitoring system acknowledged the need for quality alongside speed.

  • publishing new data on local authorities’ performance in meeting their statutory duty to process smaller planning applications within 8 weeks;  and 
  • working with industry and local authorities to test whether more can be done to support the approval of small sites in the planning system.  

We support initiatives that would enable the smaller house builder to contribute to meeting local housing needs and we will examine the related proposals at consultation in this light. Through the Government’s initiative with the Homes & Communities initiative at Northstowe it should be possible to demonstrate how appropriate levels of affordable housing and small & self-builder sites can be delivered to achieve a well-planned, sustainable community.

  • We will also be publishing proposals for Compulsory Purchase Reforms for consultation at Budget 2015 to make processes clearer, faster and fairer.     

The RTPI report ‘Large Scale Housing urged the better use of compulsory purchase powers and therefore we welcome this commitment to ensure a fit-for-purpose process. 

National Infrastructure Plan

Clarity and visibility, as outlined in the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP), is important to create economically successful places. This plan outlining long-term priorities is a positive step, but could benefit from more spatial thinking connecting how proposed projects impact one another. It is reassuring to see detailed delivery plans to 2020 including details of planned projects and programmes across both the public and private sectors to 2020 and beyond.

The Institute is eager to work with Government on further improvements to the planning system. In its policy papers Delivering Large Scale Housing, Transport Infrastructure Investment and Fostering Growth the RTPI has repeatedly made the case that infrastructure investment is a key ingredient to unlock growth and it is good to see Government also recognise infrastructure as key to sustained economic growth including the link between infrastructure and housing delivery.

Investment in infrastructure to unlock large-scale housing development is critically important and the RTPI is pleased to see Government plans to build up to 13,000 homes on the edge of Bicester which has been named the government’s second garden city in addition to other infrastructure projects such as Barking Riverside to respond to the UK’s housing shortage.

In the past the RTPI has urged linking together infrastructure expenditure, policies and planning with policies and planning for housing in order to unlock potential sites, for example through budgetary processes or guarantees against future income streams. The RTPI is also pleased to see the Government has announced making better use of Compulsory Purchase Orders following the RTPI calling for local authorities to have a larger role in land assembly.

The RTPI continues to urge Government to spatially represent policies going beyond the infrastructure pipeline with regional breakdowns and focus proposed development around existing infrastructure such as rail to avoid creating sprawl-like conditions which add costs in the long-run.

Some key announcements within the NIP include:

  • Roads Investment Strategy – £15 billion between 2015-16 and 2020-21to continue the transformation of the Strategic Road Network, including major projects for the A303, A1, A47 and A27
  • Flood defences – a 6-year programme of investment in flood defences, allocating the £2.3 billion capital funding provided at the 2013 Spending Round
  • Barking Riverside – a principal heads of terms agreement for a loan of £55 million to support the extension of the London Overground to Barking Riverside, to unlock the delivery of 11,000 homes
  • Ebbsfleet – first £100m available to fund infrastructure and land remediation at Ebbsfleet, taking forward its commitment to build the first new garden city for almost 100 years, which will deliver up to 15,000 new homes
  • Cycle City Ambition grants – £114 million between 2015-16 and 2017-18 to enable the continuation of the Cycle City Ambition scheme in the eight cities it already covers; this will provide capital funding for better cycle infrastructure such as segregated lanes and improved junctions
  • Compulsory Purchase Reforms – proposals will be published for consultation at Budget 2015 to make processes clearer, faster and fairer, with the aim of bringing forward more brownfield land for development

Full details, including additional regeneration projects, can be found here:

National Audit Office report The Impact of Funding Reductions on Local Authorities

  • There has been 46% budgeted real-terms reduction in spending on planning and development services, 2010-11 to 2014-15 compared to 37% estimated real-terms reduction in government funding to local authorities 2010-11 to 2015-16.
  • Between 2010-11 to 2011-12 planning and development took on the highest burden of cost savings (21% change in spend).
  • The percentage of minor planning applications processed within 8 weeks fell from 75% in 2010-11 to 70% in 2013-14, despite a 3% fall in the number of applications. The share of ‘other applications’ processed within 8 weeks fell from 86% in 2010-11 to 83% in 2013-14, despite a 4% fall in the number of applications. In contrast, the share of ‘major applications’ processed within 13 weeks increased from 67% to 71% over this period.

The full National Audit Office report can be found here: