Following the release of the Government’s Planning for the Future whitepaper in August, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) has now published its response.
The CIC is the representative for professional bodies, research organisations and specialist business associations in the construction industry.
Graham Watts, the CIC Chief Executive has responded by saying that a large portion of their (circa 500,000) members who are made up of professionals working within the construction industry such as architects, designers, surveyors, builders and engineers will be affected by the new planning reform and may even negatively impact the output of new houses.
Although the CIC agree that there is a need for reform, the general consensus is that the planning system should not be blamed for the fact that the industry has not met house building targets. The belief is that the current system should be reinforced and improved and disagrees with the PM’s statement that the whole planning system should be “torn down”.
Members agreed that the failure to meet housing targets was in part due to market conditions, specifically to the fact that there are an insufficient number of SME house builders with the market being dominated by an oligopoly of large house builders.
Many SME’s do not have the resources to invest in infrastructure which prevents many from re-entering the market and Section 106 processes also represent problems for them.
The view of the CIC is that by improving current processes and systems already in place and by investing in local planning authorities will deliver improvement in outcomes. Local Authorities currently lack capacity and skilled employees so investment into these areas will have a significant impact on planning application acceptances and timeframes.
They also state that to improve affordability, more affordable homes should be built in areas where homes are least affordable and should also include strategies of building the homes in line with the Government’s targets for zero-net carbon by 2050.
The CIC is in agreeance that local plans need to be kept up to date and that moves to digitalise the planning process would contribute to effectiveness. If each local authority had a statutory obligation to keep a plan up to date, and make development and infrastructure are well connected then this would make an early difference and ensure that the plan would make provision for the housing need set out in MHCLG´s proposed approach to measuring need.
Although digitalisation of the planning process would speed up the processing of planning applications and increase efficiency there is also the consideration that there will be a higher skills requirement, which despite the introduction of planning fees has not impacted on the low resources within planning departments. The CIC believe that Government aims can only be achieved if more ring-fenced resources are made available to local planning authorities.
You can read the CIC´s full response here