Automatic planning permission for brownfield sites
“Last week the Business Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled plans whereby developers could get automatic planning permission to build on brownfield sites.
This headline came out of the Treasury publication ‘Fixing the Foundations: Creating a Prosperous Nation’. The document is a 15 point plan to boost Britain’s poor productivity record. Now, our productivity problem is nothing new and I am sure we consider ourselves hardworking individuals, but did you know our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per hour worked is 9% less than Italy, 27% less than France, 28% less than Germany and 31% less than the US?
It is George Osborne’s aspiration for us to reach the level of productivity achieved by the United States and that equates to a £21,000 improvement per household per year. An ambitious target no doubt and will relaxing planning legislation on brownfield sites really help improve our productivity?
The details of the how automatic planning permission will work have yet to be published and local authorities will be concerned about losing control in the planning process. The recent policy of allowing commercial offices to be converted to residential properties without the need for a planning application has proved very contentious. With some justification local authorities have complained about losing out on affordable housing and infrastructure payments. What controls will councils have on design? Are we going to see hideous schemes springing up in our towns and cities?
Loosening planning control is only part of the solution for boosting construction in our country. The major barrier remains the chronic skill shortage in the sector and that is not just trades on site, but every aspect of process from planners and architects, to engineers and solicitors. This requires a long term investment in education and training, something both Labour and Conservative Governments have failed to address. There is no way that we will become a highly productive nation unless radical improvements are made to the education system.”
This blog post was written for Finders Keepers by Chris Brotherton of Thomas Homes, a leading developer of quality new homes established for more than thirty years.