Over the course of the last six months, there have been numerous Government announcements relating to planning and environmental updates. Below, we outline the key updates and our thoughts on how they may impact landlords and tenants alike.
A timeline of recent events
In the summer of 2022, former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s ambition was to continue to fuel growth in the housing industry through pushing forward and removing barriers to planning. However, many MPs wanted their local planning authorities to maintain a veto over development, enabling these authorities and their members to have some oversight on local development areas.
On the 26 October 2022, Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced that he was abolishing his predecessor’s plans for deregulatory reform.
On the 31 October 2022, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up – Michael Gove – announced that the 300,000 new homes target per year was still in place. However, under his governance, it may become an advisory target compared to a mandatory target. Followed later that day by the announcement that the Government would be reviewing the Investment Zones Initiative (“Investment Zones”).
By making the 300,000 target an advisory rather than compulsory measure would mean that councils would now be able to propose fewer homes being built if they faced genuine constraints, or if building at high density would mean that the character of an area would be significantly impacted.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB), May 2022 established the framework for the Government to enact a new Infrastructure Levy (IL), which would primarily replace the current developer contribution system (the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 Planning Obligations) as a charge on development for infrastructure.
However, some experts believe that IL will not fully replace Section 106, due to the many other uses of Section 106 including:
- affordable housing
- town centre improvements
Moving forward, it is possible that Section 106 is used for large-scale planning applications, whilst IL is used for small to medium planning applications.
Will planning enforcement be reformed?
If there are complaints about work or a breach of planning permission, a local council enforcement team may investigate the matter. Enforcement action is at the discretion of your Council.
The main breaches of current planning control include:
- construction or engineering activity and a change in the use of land without planning approval
- unauthorised work on trees under protection
- violation of planning conditions
- Section 106 Agreement being broken
- non-compliance with approved plans attached to planning permissions
- unauthorised signs or advertisements
- unauthorised conversion of buildings or land
- poorly maintained land or structures that have an impact on the local area’s amenities
- unapproved renovations to a listed building
- unauthorised demolition work in a conservation area
- unpermitted garbage disposal or mineral extraction
Many believe that the planning enforcement system should be reformed. The system as is, is reported to be unsophisticated and difficult, with appeals that frequently take years to be settled.
In order to ease the pressure, more resources will be given to Councils to investigate breaches, along with the introduction of enforcement warning notices, and an increase in fines for those who have breached planning permission. There is currently no details or dates on how and when this will come into action.
Councils are often careful to serve the existing enforcement notices that are in place due to costs and appeal. Therefore, the use and benefits of the new ‘enforcement warning notices’ are yet to be determined.
Are Investment Zones going ahead?
The Government’s aim with Investment Zones is to ‘streamline and accelerate delivery of high-quality development for jobs and homes’. Investment Zone proposals which are put forth will benefit from specific tax and regulatory rules intended to drive economic growth.
A number of time-limited tax incentives over 10 years may be available to certain areas in England. Tax incentives under consideration include:
- Business Rates – 100% relief from business rates on newly occupied business premises, and certain existing businesses where they expand in English Investment Zone tax sites. Councils hosting Investment Zones will receive 100% of the business rates growth in designated sites above an agreed baseline for 25 years.
- Enhanced Capital Allowance – 100% first year allowance for companies’ qualifying expenditure on plant and machinery assets for use in tax sites.
- Enhanced Structures and Buildings Allowance – accelerated relief to allow businesses to reduce their taxable profits by 20% of the cost of qualifying non-residential investment per year, relieving 100% of their cost of investment over 5 years.
- Employer National Insurance contributions relief – zero-rate Employer NICs on salaries of any new employee working in the tax site for at least 60% of their time, on earnings up to £50,270 per year, with Employer NICs being charged at the usual rate above this level.
- Stamp Duty Land Tax– a full SDLT relief for land and buildings bought for use or development for commercial purposes, and for purchases of land or buildings for residential developers.
Investment Zones are a ‘watch this space’ initiative, with the Government frequently moving back and forth on the idea. It appears that the main concern with Investment Zones is the impact the initiative would have on environmental protections as a result.
However, currently the plan is to push forward despite the Government recognising that further detail is required on provisions and mechanisms for delivery.
What impact will Investment Zones have on environmental protections?
Whilst there is no clarity yet, indications of the impact of Investment Zones on wildlife are that the plans may involve weakening environmental protections in order to bring forward new housing development quickly.
It is only due to the environmental regulations and planning controls that preserve them do the most significant wildlife sites across the UK continue to exist. Wildlife within Investment Zones may have their protection weakened or possibly lost.
Additionally, less control over what is constructed, and where, may be granted to individuals and their local community.
Are Investment Zones likely to be effective?
Similar strategies to support economic growth have been tried previously, although to little avail. Amongst these included Simplified Planning Zones (SPZs) and Enterprise Zones. However, despite SPZs still being in place, since 1986 very few local authorities have taken advantage of the scheme due to high costs.
Enterprise Zones also underwhelmed with studies scrutinising the policy for its lack of job creation, something that the Government stated it would deliver on.
Despite this, many local councils are showing an interest in Investment Zones, with some councils putting forth the notion of more than one zone in their area.
National map of planning data
The Government have recently launched a prototype for a national map of the data collected and collated by Planning Data.
The map is an interactive and visual tool designed for person/s interested in planning in a certain area, or for those who are simply interested.
It enables you to examine a location by ancient woodland, historic battlefields, conservations areas, green belts, listed buildings, planning authority, national parks, civil parish, site of special scientific interest, tree preservation zone, plus much more.
If you have any questions relating to the content outlined in this article, please contact us using the form below and we can connect you with the relevant experts.
We always recommend that you seek advice from a suitably qualified adviser before taking any action. The information in this article only serves as a guide and no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.
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