Aaron Hopley, a solicitor in Gateley’s Planning team, looks at the recently published Raynsford Review.

‘Planning 2020: Raynsford Review of Planning in England’, led by former Housing Minister Nick Raynsford, was published in November 2018, having been commissioned by the Town and Country Planning Association. The purpose of the review was to identify the type of planning system that England would need from 2020, with a focus on how the government would be able to reform the planning system to make it fairer, better resourced and capable of producing quality outcomes, while still ensuring the delivery of new homes.

The review was launched in the summer of 2017 and in addition to undertaking a full evidential review of the existing system, an extensive programme of consultation, covering all regions of the country, was undertaken and a wide range of organisations and interest groups were consulted.

The conclusion is that the current planning system is too focused on delivering a high quantity of new homes, with little or no consideration for where they should be built, the quality of their design, and whether they are genuinely affordable.

The final report contains 24 recommendations (these can be found within Section 7 – beginning on page 86) which cut across the planning spectrum and the review determines that taken together, the recommendations would create a new planning system which would have the following distinctive characteristics:

  1. Have a clear purpose, prioritising the safety and wellbeing of people within a framework of long-term sustainable development, so as to create places of beauty, safety and resilience.
  2. Offer greater certainty and predictability to all parties, enabling investors, developers and communities to feel more confident in a genuinely plan-led system.
  3. Provide a clearer definition of the rights and responsibilities of citizens in relation to planning and a more logical framework for decision-making at the most appropriate level.
  4. Achieve a better alignment between the various government departments and their agencies, as well as local government, in planning for the needs of the whole nation.
  5. Secure a fairer balance between the interests of landowners and the public in terms of sharing the uplift in land value derived from development.
  6. Attract sufficient people with energy, talent and commitment into both the public and private sectors to ensure an adequate supply of imaginative, skilled and committed planners who can help deliver inspirational place-making.

The recommendations comprise: reforms to ensure the planning system is concentrated around communities and people; the delivery of a new ‘community covenant’; capturing the ‘betterment values’ in order to ensure fit for purpose higher quality development; and boosting the growth of high-calibre, skilled planners.

With a particular focus on new homes, ‘Recommendation 10’ endorses that there should be a specific legal duty on local planning authorities to plan for the housing needs of their area. Whilst the review recognises that there is much government focus on the deliverability of new housing, it concludes that this falls short when compared to other outcome-based duties (one example being climate change) which are enshrined within planning legislation.

The review recommends that the government should introduce a new duty on local planning authorities to plan for the long-term housing needs of the area, with there being a specific duty on every local planning authority to plan for the full range of housing needs expected in their area, the emphasis being on the provision of genuinely affordable and high-quality homes. The recommendation goes on to suggest that the new duty could be delivered by an amendment to Section 19 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, via the following insertion:

‘Development plan documents must (taken as a whole) include policies designed to meet the housing needs of the local planning authority’s area in such a way as to secure the long-term health, safety and wellbeing of residents. In meeting such needs planning authorities should have particular regard to both ensuring that housing is affordable to those on average or below-average household incomes and the objective of securing beauty in design.’

Given that the review was not commissioned by the government it remains to be seen whether the far-reaching recommendations will be translated into meaningful actions but what is clear is that the review certainly gives the government and those involved in the UK planning industry food for thought.

This post was edited by Aaron Hopley