Planning reforms and government funding schemes - are these the solutions developers have been waiting for?

Together we are Forbes


24 November, 2021

Claire Smith

Developers are still hoping that planning reforms on the horizon in England could still be good news. Early announcements suggested reforms would aim to streamline the current planning application process and introduce a zone system that would automatically grant development rights to some areas. Currently, the biggest hurdle new developments need to navigate is the length of time it takes to get planning permission and the new system is intended to help alleviate these issues. These proposals have, however, met with significant opposition including concerns that altering the consultation process would limit the ability to object to or raise concerns about a planning application.

The government now intends to revisit the planning reforms with further announcements due at the end of 2021 or early 2022. It is hoped that the parts of the reforms that are much needed will still be implemented in a way that can bring about real change for developers and help local authorities to meet the government targets for new housing. There are indications that the digitalization proposals for the system and fee structure amendment will still be brought forward, but the zone system proposal is likely to be revisited and there will be less emphasis on national housing targets.

While the planning reforms are still under consideration, the recent budget included funding scheme announcements for home owners and developers: the Home Building fund has been extended and will run from 2021 until 2024-25 and is anticipated to help build up to 116,000 new homes. This fund is available for both development and infrastructure, enabling house builders who are building more than 5 houses to apply for funds that they might not otherwise have access to. This fund is also able to provide smaller loans for innovative housing solutions and serviced plots for custom builds. By funding these types of projects it is hoped that more of the housing market will be opened up to first time buyers, including self-build plots - a sector which previously only existing home owners or those with substantial deposits could afford. This ties in with the recent funding scheme announced for buyers, the 'Help to Build' scheme. The proposals for this scheme are similar to the Help to Buy scheme people are already familiar with and enables buyers with a 5% deposit to obtain a 20% government contribution to the loan for a completed self-build property - Further details are expected shortly on how this scheme will operate.

There has recently been an increase in new build developments having plots set aside for self-build properties and it is hoped that this funding will allow that market to increase and alleviate the burden on local authorities to provide the levels of affordable housing currently needed.

With significant changes planned to both the planning system and available funding we will have to watch and see if it can contribute to delivery of the target number of homes the government has set to deal with the housing crisis.

For more information contact Claire Smith in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 0333 207 1130. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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