Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Raynsford Review: changing the UK’s planning system for the better?

Published in 2018, the Raynsford Review aimed to identify the areas of the current planning system that need reform, to make it fairer and more productive.

If the concluded recommendations were to be adopted in full, it is likely the planning system would be significantly improved. However, Brexit is currently top priority, and it is unlikely the necessary changes will be made any time soon.

Paul Wakefield, associate partner in the planning team of Shakespeare Martineau, explains further:

What elements of the current system need reforming most?

Presently, the way planning permission is assessed and granted causes uncertainty for the construction industry. Potential developments come with risks, due to developers investing heavily for something that could fail. Having a clearer, and quicker, planning system would lessen the cost and time implications that are currently involved with large-scale construction programmes.

Would revoking the permitted development system be practical?

One of the proposals is to revoke the permitted development system. This system has made office to residential conversions simple, but building quality has suffered because of it, leaving some people with unsuitable accommodation and surrounding infrastructure which has not been properly considered or developed.

Revoking – or rethinking – this system could be positive if it improves the quality of new developments.

Is more investment and funding needed?

To successfully carry out the transformation proposed by the Raynsford Review, an increase in funding is needed. Budget cuts to planning services have left local authority planning departments lacking in both monetary resource and manpower. Without investment, the talented individuals that are needed to implement the improvements cannot be kept or attracted and competing with the private sector will remain difficult.

Can it succeed?

If every suggested change were implemented, in a decisive and comprehensive way, success would be practically guaranteed. The complexity and uncertainty surrounding the planning system would be removed, benefitting many of the system’s stakeholders. However, the Government’s focus on Brexit means undertaking this level of transformation is improbable in the near future.

It is vital that the Government does not implement only a select few features of the Raynsford Review. Picking and choosing has not worked before and is unlikely to work now.

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