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Updated Sep 23, 2022

Planning restrictions to be eased by Government

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng delivered a mini-budget on 23 September, during which he announced that a new Bill will be introduced aiming to "unpick the complex patchwork of planning restrictions".

The Government formed by new Prime Minister Liz Truss has a focus on improving the economy. Mr Kwarteng stated that the "essential foundation of growth is infrastructure". However, he noted that the time taken for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP's) to gain approval is increasing rather than decreasing. These projects are often large, complex planning proposals that have a national benefit, such as railway lines or nuclear power stations. The process for approving them is therefore longer than the average planning application due in part to the information to be considered.

Mr Kwarteng has promised to streamline the process involving assessments, appraisals, consultations and regulations. At the same time, they aim to speed up the decision-making process and will publish a list of infrastructure projects that will be "prioritised for acceleration".

In the budget announcement, Mr Kwarteng also stated that new investment zones would be created; areas in which planning rules are relaxed in order to release land and speed up development. The ultimate aim being that the zones will drive economic growth and regeneration.

Looking at the latter investment zone proposal, Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI, said "Local consent is quite rightly identified as a requirement for investment zones to be chosen, because construction and infrastructure projects cannot simply be pushed on local communities. Experience shows that a strong plan-led approach is also needed to make sure planning freedoms are introduced at the appropriate level to deliver investment zones.

“Success will therefore depend on local leadership and further detail from the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities about forthcoming planning reforms and the new bill proposed for nationally significant infrastructure.

“After all, investors will be reluctant to seize the opportunities of new zones if our planning system remains complex, its future uncertain and if planners are not sufficiently resourced to help residents and businesses enjoy the benefits of new jobs and development.”

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