October 2023 Planning Round-Up
Updated: Nov 20
October 2023 was another interesting month for planning, with a flurry of party conferences setting out visions for the future of planning, and the long-anticipated enactment of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) (now ‘LURA’). A Government consultation on the implementation of plan-making reforms also closed in October– you can read the executive summary of our response here.
The Conservative Party conference in Manchester followed the publication of the Government’s Plan for Drivers policy paper, which included proposals to limit the powers of local authorities in advancing traffic measures and the concept of the 15-minute city. These proposals were repeated throughout the conference, however, there were a number of announcements made relevant to planning. Of these, the announced scrapping of HS2 phase 2, the creation of ‘Network North’, and a development zone at Euston were perhaps the most significant.
Fringe events at the Conservative party conference also included discussion of the continued effectiveness of the Green Belt and the need for its review. However, the effectiveness of the Green Belt was centre stage at the Labour Party’s Liverpool conference, with the existing localist planning system coming under criticism. While not a new conversation, the strategic planning and Green Belt question is gathering momentum across commentators and was a key point of discussion at the RTPI’s Young Planners Conference in Birmingham. See RTPI President Sue Bridge’s blog on the Green Belt for a summary of the debate.
Labour’s conference included arguably stronger and more ambitious messaging regarding planning and housing of the three main party conferences. This included pledges of the release of poor quality Green Belt (or ‘grey belt’), the retention of housing targets, the delivery of 1.5 million homes over five years, new towns, facing down local opposition to development, and boosting system capacity through the hiring of 300 planning officers.
There is now momentum building towards an election that has not yet been called. It is encouraging that planning, development and related local issues are high on the agendas of all parties. The RTPI have attended the party conferences to represent the planning profession in these conversations and promote the recently published Planifesto 2024.
Following the excitement of the party conferences, the affectionately named LURB became the LURA through receiving Royal Assent on 26 October 2023. For plan-making, this does not immediately change much as the Local Plan-related provisions require secondary legislation to come into force. A September letter from Michael Gove MP stated that the necessary regulations, policy and guidance for ‘new-style’ Local Plans will be in place by Autumn 2024. Even then, it is understood that elements such as the Infrastructure Levy and new Local Plan system are to be gradually piloted and rolled out through transition periods.
However, the industry has been advised that the long-awaited revised NPPF will be published imminently. While this may once again disrupt plan-making, we are hopeful that this will provide local authorities much needed clarity and confidence in where to go next in preparing Local Plans. Never a dull moment in plan-making!
Regardless the message is clear. Local authorities should keep on producing Local Plans and get them submitted by no later than June 2025. We hope the publication of the new NPPF will provide sufficient clarity and incentivisation to encourage authorities that have paused local plan production to now press on and get their plans in place before the introduction of the new system.