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Planning Reforms with Street Votes in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill

The Levelling up and Regeneration bill, which had its first reading on 11th May 2022, seeks to enshrine the government’s commitment to long term missions to spread opportunity, drive productivity and boost local pride in every corner of the country.

According to media sources, levelling up secretary Mr Michael Gove casts doubts on building 300,000 homes per year.

He has said that hitting a "statistical target" was not the only measure of success, particularly "if the homes that are built are shoddy, in the wrong place, don't have the infrastructure required, and are not contributing to beautiful communities".

Planning is one of the critical factors in the government’s ambition to level up the country. It has also been a constant complaint about the residential construction issues for a year.

As a part of the new Levelling up and Regeneration bill, the government has unveiled the planning system, which aims to reform the planning process to level up. The reformed planning system aims to provide residents with more involvement in the local development.

'Street votes' were introduced as an alternative to the traditional planning permission. It will allow neighbours to vote on whether planning permission should be given for developments such as house extensions on the street.

The new planning system is set based on five principles: beauty, infrastructure, democracy, environment, and neighbourhood democracy.

Local planning authorities require a design code in place covering their entire area. These area-wide codes will act as frameworks for the subsequent detailed design codes. This will help ensure that good design is considered at all spatial scales, down to development sites and individual plots.

The current system of securing developer contribution has been replaced in the new bill with a new Infrastructure Levy. The local planning authorities will ensure the rates are tailored to local needs and deliver affordable housing.

Developers are required to deliver infrastructure that is integral to the design and delivery of the site. To ensure the process flows seamlessly, local authorities are to prepare infrastructure delivery strategies that outline the intention to spend the levy.

Michael Gove has also said that the process of building new housing should be simplified by involving residents even before the planning permission stage in the decisions about where the homes might be placed.

However, before local voting, proposals will be examined against nationally prescribed development rules, which are to be agreed upon in due course, the government said.

Henceforth, the development will only go ahead if the ‘supermajority’ residents in a referendum endorse the proposal. The principles sound well intended, but the detail of how this bill works out is undoubtedly a key consideration for the industry.

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