The planning process for developers will be shortened in an effort to boost home building, the Government has announced.
Ministers want to “turbocharge” house building by cutting red tape in a network of new Investment Zones while also limiting the ability for planning decisions to be overturned by the courts.
In his fiscal statement on Friday, Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor, said the Government would get “out of the way to get Britain building”.
On Saturday, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published new detail on Investment Zones designed to spread growth across the country.
The guidance says that development proposals in the zones will “benefit from a liberalised planning process”, including a “new faster and more streamlined consent to grant planning permission”.
The department said it would cut “burdensome EU requirements which create paperwork and stall development but do not necessarily protect the environment” and reduce “lengthy consultation with statutory bodies”.
The use of the zones is seen as a more politically savvy way to encourage local communities to buy into new developments.
One Tory MP told The Telegraph that the Government was “taking a very individualistic approach to regions” on planning policy, “which I think is probably a good idea, and means that maybe it won’t have the same opposition to it as there currently is.”
Simon Clarke, the Levelling Up Secretary, promised that the zones would “not be imposed but will only happen where local councils and Mayors apply for them”.
Posting on Twitter, he also tried to assuage concerns that they would damage the environment. “There are few people more committed to our environment than me,” he said.
Investment Zones are about delivering the economic growth and the family homes our country needs.
To deliver this, we are offering an opportunity to unlock development on specific sites where local communities want growth.
— Simon Clarke MP (@SimonClarkeMP) September 24, 2022
A Whitehall source said that the Government saw the approach as “turbocharging” development in the zones but had not given up on more sweeping reforms to the planning process.
As well as “reducing minimum consultation periods”, they said reform could include “making it clearer in primary legislation what is and isn’t able to be overturned by the courts”.
They said that the existing planning system was “one of the biggest blockers” to growth and represented “the biggest supply side reform that this economy really needs”, although efforts to change the rules were still likely to prove “rocky” with Tory MPs.
The Telegraph also understands that Liz Truss’s Government may revive a plan to link up the cities of Cambridge and Oxford.
'Investment zones have been tried before'
The "Oxford-Cambridge Arc" involved connecting up the two university cities via new homes and transport links, but was ditched by Boris Johnson’s government.
It is understood that Ms Truss’s Cabinet is more sympathetic to the idea, and that elements of the plan are now back on the table.
Responding to the new information on Investment Zones, Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up secretary, said: “This country needs a serious plan for growth, not more recycled, failed Tory ideas. Investment zones have been tried before and not delivered the new jobs or growth promised."
She added that “slashing standards” and “destroying the environment” offered “no prospect of sustainable growth”.
“For most people that’s levelling down, not up." she said.
"This country needs a serious plan to get jobs and investment into every nation and region, money back into people’s pockets and locally-driven growth, not more Amazon warehouses and deregulation."