Newington analyses Communities Secretary announcement of plans to reduce bureaucracy and speed up the planning process


Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire made a wide-ranging speech to the Chartered Institute of Housing Conference in Manchester yesterday where he announced plans to abolish the sale of new homes as leasehold properties, confirmed government support for 19 new Garden Towns and reconfirmed £2 billion of funding for affordable homes through Housing Associations.

Newington's Cameron Scott provides analysis of another key announcement from Brokenshire’s speech- plans aimed at reducing bureaucracy and speeding up the planning system.

The Communities Secretary yesterday outlined a goal of delivering greater capacity and capability in local planning authorities through an Accelerated Planning Green Paper to be published later this year.

On the face of it this sounds like good news for developers and those in need of housing they can afford. Reducing bureaucracy can potentially help to speed things up, reduce costs and deliver more new homes quicker. But as always the devil will be in the detail.

Planning decisions will continue to be made democratically by local councillors, who will in many cases take political considerations into account- whether that's general priorities like wanting to see high levels of affordable housing delivered or being influenced by specific community concerns and demands in relation to development.

Pre-application processes, which can be lengthy and costly, allow developers to work with planning officers to examine their plans and consider political priorities. If this process is streamlined without addressing planning capacity and capability issues as Brokenshire has indicated he wants to do, developers may find themselves going before planning committees without sufficient pre-app scrutiny that can help them negotiate the political process in the longer term.

An absence of proper scrutiny could lead to applications going to committee without key political issues being considered and addressed. This could ultimately lead to higher rates of refusals and potentially make the problem worse, not better.

We eagerly await the detail in the Green Paper…

In the meantime, if you would like to discuss the politics of the planning process or a specific project you are working on please contact