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RTPI warns Infrastructure Levy proposal risks increasing complexity and being unreasonably costly in series of consultation responses

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has warned that proposed Infrastructure Levy changes would be a step back, not a step forward for England’s planning system.

According to the Institute’s consultation response, released today, the new system would be more complex and resource-intensive than the current system. Councils would be offered few assurances that the revenue they receive from developers will increase, or that they will be properly supported to implement the new system and manage its risks.

The Institute has raised concerns that developers may struggle to navigate the new system and would be able to attribute fewer local improvements to their investment, undermining the case for much-needed homes across the country.

The Institute has warned that a fundamental barrier to each of these responses will be the resourcing and capacity of Local Planning Authorities. In September 2022, the RTPI reported that Local Authority spending on planning has fallen by 43% since 2009/10, now representing just 0.45% of local government budgets.

Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: “Communities need certainty that new development will bring new infrastructure, social and affordable homes to their area. But we see the proposed new Infrastructure Levy as a retrograde step, not a step forward for England’s planning system.”

The Institute has recently published its consultation response to the Infrastructure Levy, Environmental Outcomes Reports, Networks National Policy Statement, and Short Term Lets.

These responses are part of a broader effort by the Institute to engage constructively with the government on planning reforms and ensure that the voices of its members are heard in parliament. This includes working behind the scenes on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, as well as future changes to the National Planning Policy Framework.

The Institute is now anticipating future consultations, including a wider review of the National Planning Policy Framework, and will continue to seek the input of its members.

On Environmental Outcomes Reports:

The Institute highlighted the importance of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) in ensuring thorough review of plans and projects.

The Institute accepted that these could be more focused on outcomes than assessment and would therefore like to see bolder proposals that deal with development's social and economic impacts, introduce efficiencies alongside Habitats and Biodiversity requirements and lead to a regime that is simple to use.

Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: “We are yet to be convinced that a replacement Environmental Outcomes regime is necessary or justified. However, if it is to be successful, public involvement and the consideration of alternatives and cumulative impacts of proposals should also be strengthened by any reform.”

On the Networks National Policy Statement:

The Institute stated that, in order to effectively address our national transport needs and reduce transport emissions, the government's proposed statement on infrastructure policy must be framed in a way that encourages action.

The Institute encourages Ministers to unlock development in tandem with new national networks by recommending spatial decisions to explain where the required infrastructure should be delivered.

On Short-term lets:

The Institute expressed concerns that the new use class proposal would only apply to new holiday homes, leaving pre-existing conversions unprotected. Additionally, they could result in more holiday home conversation during the year-long grace period before controls are enforceable.

Furthermore, the introduction of the change of use class may simply shift new holiday homes into surrounding neighbourhoods that are not protected. Lastly, there is no clear plan on how the occupancy and number of holiday homes will be monitored and enforced.

Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: “We’d favour alternative solutions for short term lets that empower local leaders and their communities. In our response, we’ve recommended small changes that would allow new local plan policies on holiday homes. Under these proposals, holiday homes would get included in the definition of development to increase the control that communities have over their own housing supply and economic transformation.”

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