Audit Office Says Planning System Is Not Working Well

Fri 8 Feb 2019
Issue 20 cover

The National Audit Office's (NAO) Planning for New Homes report, published this week, lists the planning challenges faced by MHCLG to deliver Theresa May’s 300,000 homes a year target. This report is part of a series on housing in England assessing how effectively the Department supports the planning regime to provide the right homes in the right places.

NAO's conclusions are stark: 'looking across the [planning] landscape, from the setting of the need for new homes, to the reductions in local authority capability, the under-performing Planning Inspectorate and failures in the system to ensure adequate contributions for infrastructure, it is clear that the system is not working well. Given these problems, we cannot conclude that the planning system currently provides value for money in terms of delivering new homes effectively.'

Housing Minister Kit Malthouse responded: 'I recognise the challenges identified by the NAO, and the simple truth is over the last three decades, governments of all stripes have built too few homes of all types.'

What does it mean for design and planning?
Statistics show a 15% decline in planning staff between 2006 and 2016. One of NAO’s five core recommendations is to work with industry bodies on detailed research on the skill gaps in local authorities’ planning teams, particularly on the shortages of experienced planners with specialist skills sets.

This might lead to an increase in urban designers, especially where design quality is a ‘gateway’ for permissions, such as in greenbelt local authorities. However, given that another weakness identified by the NAO was the inability to effectively negotiate Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and section 106 agreements, perhaps it is more likely that viability experts and those with commercial skills are the top choice.

Cover image: Place North West

Until next week. Please make sure to send in your ideas to
Author: Jane Briginshaw, Design England

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