Skip to content

Weekly planning news

Planning news - 31 May 2024

Housing Secretary Michael Gove stands down

Housing Secretary Micheal Gove has announced he will not be standing in the upcoming election, making him one of many MPs to quit over recent weeks. 

Michael Gove served in this role since October 2022, during his tenure, Gove has driven initiatives addressing some of the built environment industry’s most pressing issues. He has been involved in policy aimed at increasing housing supply, enhancing building safety in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and promoting regional development as part of a broader "levelling up" agenda.   

Naturally, uncertainty around who will the lead the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) following the election adds to the complexities the UK’s built environment is currently facing. The next Secretary of State will not only inherit ongoing issues but will be charged with ensuring policy meets the evolving needs of housing and planning, sectors which have already seen so much change over recent years. Doubtless a shift in leadership will bring different ideology, and with that different priorities. 

As we approach a new phase of leadership, the direction of housing policy and its impact on planning and land development will be watched closely by industry stakeholders.  

At Planning Portal, we will continue to monitor these developments, providing insights and updates on what changes might mean for you, as well as for the future of planning and land development in the UK. 

Labour promise ‘New Towns’ and propose the merging of National Infrastructure Commission and Infrastructure Projects Authority at this year’s UKREiiF

Last week, over 12,000 delegates descended on Leeds Dock for the biggest built environment industry event of the year. 

There were several key takeaways from the event, but in light of the upcoming election, many of the most interesting disclosures came from Labour, who used this platform to announce key plans for built environment legislation.  

Darren Jones, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced that Labour intend to merge the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) with the Infrastructure Projects Authority (IPA) to create a new body - the National Infrastructure and Service Transformation Authority (Nista) - if elected. Nista will be established with the aim of better supporting “the delivery of major capital projects.” 

He said: 

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset how infrastructure is delivered, and public services are upgraded…Our new National Infrastructure and Service Transformation Authority will be laser-focused on delivery and play a critical role in setting the path we need to drive growth”. 

Nista will be jointly accountable to both the Treasury and the Cabinet Office and under the supervision of a board including external experts. The initiative follows Labour’s Major Capital Project Review, supported by experts from National Grid, Mace, Jacobs, Skanska and others. 

Meanwhile, Deputy Labour leader and Shadow Housing Secretary Angela Rayner used her opening speech to illustrate Labour’s proactive vision for housebuilding.   

Claiming that the current planning system is ‘gummed up’ and failing to provide the homes needed to solve the current housing crisis, she announced that Labour if elected a Labour government would re-introduce local housing targets and ‘ensure’ they are met.  

She went on to outline labour’s desire to build ‘beautiful new settlements right across the UK’, which she referred to as ‘New Towns’, saying Labour wants to see ‘homes on these sites within the first term of a Labour government’. 

She explained that an ‘independent taskforce’ will be set up to help choose the right sites, with a list of projects announced within the first 12 months of government: 

‘Our next generation of New Towns will build homes fit for the future. Creating places where people want to live. Inspired by garden suburbs like Hale in Manchester, Roundhay in Leeds, and the Garden City project. 

We will set out a New Towns Code – criteria that developers must meet in these new settlements: 

  • More social and affordable homes – with a gold standard aim of 40 per cent 
  • Buildings with character, in tree-lined streets that fit in with nearby areas 
  • Design that pays attention to local history and identity 
  • Planning fit for the future, with good links to town and city centres 
  • Guaranteed public transport and public services, from doctors’ surgeries to schools 
  • And access to nature, parks, and places for children to play. 

New Towns are just one way we get good quality, affordable houses built in the national interest.’ 

Rayner went on to say that Labour will ‘unlock government grants to deliver new homes’, touching on their intention to enhance and protect the environment. 

She also stated that labour will provide renters with ultimate security and ‘ban no-fault evictions, no ifs, no buts’.  

You can read a transcript of Rayner’s full opening speech on the UKREiiF website.1 

The Planner published industry responses to Rayner’s UKREiiF speech, including Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI, who emphasised the need for a well-resourced planning system to support Labour’s housing plans and Mark Powell, managing director of EDAROTH, who praised the focus on affordable housing and suggested reclassifying social housing as infrastructure to attract private investment. You can read the full Planner article, including their responses, here.2 

Biodiversity Net Gain: Natural England chief urges councils to use ecologists strategically

Speaking at UKREiiF last week, the principal Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) adviser at Natural England said that Local Authorities should prioritise, and reserve ecologist’ capacity for projects on which they are explicitly needed, Planning Resource reports.3 

When asked for a single piece of advice for Local Planning Authorities, to help make BNG a success, he said: 

‘If you’re a planning authority, triage, triage, triage. If something wouldn’t be looked at by an ecologist before, why on earth send it to an ecologist now? Particularly if it’s a small application and uses a small site metric, it shouldn’t have to go to the local authority ecologist.’ 

During the session, Rachel Danemann, regional planning manager at the Home Builders Federation (HBF), acknowledged the challenges posed by skills and capacity gaps around BNG at Local Authorities. Speaking on the panel, she encouraged applicants to ‘be kind’ to council planners and ecologists, explaining that she has spoken to many who are struggling with the transitionary period we are currently in with BNG.  

This comes following the National Audit Office (NAO)’s findings4, published on 17 May, which suggest that rushed implementation poses a risk to the effectiveness of BNG, that there is a potential understatement of biodiversity damage, and that there is still uncertainty around Local Authority capacity to enforce compliance effectively. 

Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to speed up planning system with new technology agreement

At UKREiiF last week a partnership between Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and the Digital Task Force for Planning was announced.  

Former RTPI president Dr Yang, who co-founded the not-for-profit task force, said that the agreement is “a significant step forward in our efforts to reinvigorate spatial planning as a positive force”.   

The partnership will provide greater opportunities for collaboration between the private and public sectors, with the agreement focusing on identifying suitable land for new housing and unblocking existing developments currently stalled in the planning system.  

You can find out more about the digital agreement over on The Planner5

At Planning Portal we welcome more investment into technology to speed up the planning process in line with the individual requirements of local authorities. Since 2002, our joint venture with DLUHC continues to help to transform the planning process, making information and services simpler and more accessible for those involved in the process, be that applicants, agents or local authorities. We look forward to being part of the upcoming changes to improve the industry.   

Prospectus launched for pre-application Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) services

The Planning Inspectorate has introduced its new Pre-application Prospectus, which outlines the tiered approach to pre-application services for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs), which constitutes a significant part of government's NSIP reform process.  

As previously announced, this approach will segregate NSIP applications into three tiers: basic, standard, and enhanced. All projects will receive a minimum statutory service and can choose to subscribe to one of the tiers during the pre-application phase. The Planning Inspectorate will charge applicants for these services achieve full cost recovery, with fees varying based on the tier selected. Where the project is suitable there will be a fast track option.   

The Planning Inspectorate will begin accepting expressions of interest at the end of May 2024 and plans to notify all applicants of their available service tier by the end of August 2024, based on capacity.  

The Inspectorate is certain that these reforms will greatly improve their service, providing applicants with more precise and valuable guidance, clearer timelines, and better project results. By working closely with statutory bodies, local authorities, and other stakeholders, the new pre-application service aims to achieve consistently smoother and faster post-submission processes.  

Overall, these changes could lead to an increased workload for services such as land referencing and the need for higher precision and efficiency. Ultimately, choosing the right consultants at this early stage of the project will be critical.   


Our planning news is published in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

RTPI logo The Planner logo

    Planning news - 31 May 2024

      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). All content © 2024 Planning Portal.

      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). All content © 2024 Planning Portal.