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Ministers must support infrastructure delivery

Katherine Evans comments on the NAO's report that the UK's planning system is failing, following an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live.

The recent report by public spending watchdog the National Audit Office into how effectively the government supports the planning regime to deliver the right housing won't come as a shock to those in the planning sphere.

Clearly, myriad issues exist when it comes to both being able to deliver housing stock commitments and ensure appropriate infrastructure can be funded and delivered.

The blame for the state of affairs cannot be laid at the feet of developers alone. The stark reality is resourcing for planning departments has been slashed, with significant declines in funding between 2010 and 2017. Such funding declines clearly come at a cost in terms of outcomes.

The UK planning system on the whole remains unnecessarily complex, with complicated means of establishing how infrastructure needs to be funded and delivered. In many cases, these requirements change from region to region, making the hurdles to funding and delivery all the higher.

Successful funding requires navigating a complicated labyrinth where the system is slow and not joined-up. Further potential delays within government departments or local authorities don’t help move these things swiftly.

The government has explored ways of speeding up housing delivery through permitted development rights, and is consulting on a further expansion of these. But these policies can impair infrastructure delivery and local authority funding as a result of lost planning application fees.

Efforts have been made to unlock resources, including through the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund. But more needs to be done to ensure we are not just delivering housing, but also the necessary infrastructure. A good place to start could be to implement the recommendations from the Community Infrastructure Levy Review of October 2016, instead of relying on just tinkering around the edges, to move things forward.

This letter to the editor first appeared in Planning magazine.


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