The government has promised comprehensive reforms to bring the planning system into the 21st Century, as part of its strategy to stimulate housing development.
The Budget 2020 confirmed that an ‘ambitious’ Planning White Paper will be published shortly.
It said reforms will aim to create a simpler system to accelerate planning decisions and to provide more certainty to the general public, local planning authorities and developers.
Ahead of the White Paper’s publication, housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced a range of new proposals which are detailed in a Planning for the Future document.
This signals that councils will be encouraged to make the most of brownfield sites for housing development first, particularly those close to existing transport hubs.
However, all local authorities will be required to have up-to-date Local Plans in place by December 2023, so enough homes are built for their communities, which could open up development opportunities for rural landowners.
Councils who fail to deliver on their Local Plans, measured by the Housing Delivery Test, will face increased scrutiny.
Although little has been said directly about the implications of the reforms on rural planning, overall the White Paper does point to a more positive planning environment in the future.
The government is keen to meet its pledge to build one million more homes in the next five years and to deliver significant improvements in critical infrastructure, so it could open the door on opportunities for rural landowners in terms of development in villages and around towns.
Given the importance of digital connectivity in new homes, another positive announcement in the Budget was confirmation of funding to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband.
It was also confirmed that a £1bn deal has now been signed between government and mobile phone operators to bring 4G mobile phone coverage to 95% of the UK’s land mass by 2025.
These are moves that could have a significant impact on the wider rural economy.