When Liz Truss talks about the anti-growth coalition, she may be talking about Extinction Rebellion, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Labour party, the CBI and anyone living in Islington, rather than anyone preventing the housing industry to put shovels in the ground.
But getting the industry to build is clearly one of her main ambitions, and a critical supply-side reform necessary if she is to have any chance of her 2.5% growth target by 2024 when the general election comes around again.
According to number 10 sources, a major planning announcement is due in October, where she will talk about the critical role of the housing industry in promoting growth. Investment zones, major infrastructure project and relaxing environmental assessment rules have all been flagged up, as well as abolishing “the topdown Whitehall-inspired Stalinist housing targets”.
Planning applications in investment zones will still be necessary, but radically streamlined.
She’s also talked about her time on a planning committee in Greenwich – time which she has never got back, she says. But undermining councillor planning committees – which Johnson thought about – is likely to be a step too far.
Instead, here’s some thoughts which advisers close to her are thought to be considering:
- Making PINS publish a monthly or even weekly report on how many schemes they have processed, and giving them an extra £50 million to recruit more planners.
- Enforcing local councils to combine their planning departments into regional hubs, and funding those hubs properly.
- Relaxing some of the reports required in most cases prior to a planning committee – such as the environmental, ecological and highways reports.
- Making the 13 or 16 week statutory time limits for planning applications a hard deadline, at which time the application is approved.
Truss talked about her battle to get jobs, get pay rises, and get on the housing ladder; but her battle to free up the development industry might be harder fought.
The planning announcement is just one of eight major announcements – some of the others being childcare, Big Bang 2, energy (fracking), and deregulation. It remains to be seen on which ones she can deliver.
Richard Patient, MD Thorncliffe
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