When it comes to town planning changes in the new Levelling Up and Regeneration Act, the main take-aways are clear. The new National Development Management policies, local plan changes and a replacement for CIL will all have a significant impact on how, where and potentially when we bring forward new development.
Some points – like the increased focus on climate change – are welcome, but clearly don’t go far enough. Others are simply good housekeeping, creating more parity, closing loopholes and bringing language into line; for instance around heritage assets. Still others are a warning: land ownership is becoming more transparent and a new planning tool to address perceptions of land banking will be introduced.
But there are other, more subtle changes that will also have a significant bearing, with important implications for financing, viability and returns as well as development itself.
The balance of power between national and local decision-making is not only changing some processes but likely to alter the speed, certainty and level of consultation (or otherwise) associated with them.
The incoming Infrastructure Levy’s focus on a % of end value rather than a binary floorspace equation will have enormous repercussions for schemes of all sizes, while the new Section 73B could pave the way for more changes to permitted schemes, helping to move forward stalled development in London and elsewhere. (In some ways, it is disappointing the Section 73B changes don’t go as far as to extend the time period for implementation of schemes.)
Even the removal of cost liability on LPAs serving Building Preservation Notices, usually when pre-emptive demolition is contemplated, is important: much greater due diligence will be needed to avoid them being served during sales or before contracts clearing a site are let.
Over the week ahead my colleagues will be drawing out some more of these changes and what they mean for us all involved across the property sector.
So my final point is one of timing. Whilst the Act has already had a long history, we know there is a long way to go, with many proposed provisions needing further technical consultation and secondary legislation. With a potential change of government on the horizon and the pace at which planning change traditionally comes about, there is a clear possibility that some or all measures could be halted, reviewed or entirely rescinded. Our advice is to continue to look forward, with care, as new measures are brought in, but where possible push forward sooner from a position of greater certainty (and lower application fees in the short-term).