Without comment on the economic merits of last week’s ‘mini-budget’, the government’s Growth Plan leaves most things up in the air from a planning perspective.

Measures to support first-time buyers through changes to Stamp Duty are welcomed (with mortgage rates tipped to hit 6% by mid-2023, first home purchases could be a pipe dream for many), as is the principle of new investment zones. However, the key things from a planning perspective are yet to come – noting in particular that the government will provide details of its plans to increase housing supply in the coming weeks.

The ‘fiscal event’ contained a raft of unexpected economic measures, presumably aimed at trying to ensure that the economy is sufficiently improved by the time of the next general election. More specific to planning, it confirmed the intention to produce a new Planning and Infrastructure Bill to reduce the burden of environmental assessments and to reform habitats and species regulations. There is some confusion as to whether the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will now continue, although it seems (for now) as though it will in some form. However, the time taken to put in place new legislation, and to then use that new legislation to deliver demonstrable results on the ground, is surely much longer than the period of time available to Liz Truss before the next general election. As such, the strategy is somewhat confusing.

Rather confusingly, plans to increase housing supply could seemingly, as has been speculated, involve a return to locally–derived housing requirement calculations in some form. This is the type of policy change that could be implemented more quickly. However, it would seemingly reduce / delay housing delivery rather than boost it. The best guide to the future is the past, and we do not have to look back many years to see that locally-derived housing calculations (with many local authorities looking to avoid providing the housing that evidence demonstrated was necessary) led only to significant delays in Local Plan examination processes and, ultimately, to the introduction of the government’s standard method. Accordingly, such proposals, if forthcoming, would seemingly fly firmly in the face of a genuine attempt to boost housing supply, and thereby boost the wider economy, prior to the next election.

Interesting (and extremely confusing) times!

Authored by

Adam Ross, Executive DIrector