The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill has within it a Planning Bill in all but name.
The planning system sits right at the heart of the government’s levelling-up ambitions, and it is vital there is the necessary framework, support and investment to ensure it is fit for this purpose.
The proposal to replace S106 and CIL with a simpler infrastructure levy for all but the largest schemes is intended to speed up delivery, but the risk is that we are left with a one-size-fits-all approach, which does not work for all development types in all parts of the country, and actually turns off investment where we need it most.
The devil will be in the detail and in the implementation, and it is hugely welcome that the government appears to be listening to our calls both to work with industry experts to develop the new levy and to pilot this approach and be willing to learn from experience.
Also encouraging is some acknowledgement that the principles of Enterprise Zones may by applicable in town centres. The BPF has called for the introduction of town centre investment zones, which would give local leaders with a clear vision the tools they need – from planning freedoms to tax and rates relief. This is the radical approach needed to attract private capital on the scale required to transform local and regional economies.
Finally, we are supportive of plans to digitise the planning process, and the new funding committed for local authorities to embrace technology in creating local plans and reach the large ‘silent majority’ who do not typically engage in traditional forms of consultation. Transformation of local areas and economies will only be achieved if we all work together across public, private and third sectors, with the needs and voices of local people heard and respected.
Melanie Leech is chief executive of the British Property Federation