Planning overhaul on hold as Gove takes up new post

The UK Government is understood to have halted its major planning shake-up just days after Michael Gove was selected as the new Housing Secretary.

Earlier this week it was rumoured that the Conservatives were rethinking proposals to tear up the existing system and replace it with one based on local design codes and 'automatic' consent in areas earmarked for development.

It has now been reported that Gove is officially set to press the pause button on the planning shake-up in a bid to appease Conservative MPs unhappy the reforms could lead to unfettered housebuilding in their constituencies. 

According to the Sunday Times, Gove has also been ordered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to find a new solution to the nation's cladding scandal, which has left homeowners in apartment blocks hit with crippling bills to remove dangerous materials. The paper said that Johnson's instructions were 'an acknowledgement that the £5 billion announced in February' to try and solve the problem was not enough.

The planning overhaul was introduced by Gove's predecessor Robert Jenrick, who was sacked from the cabinet last Wednesday, and aimed to speed up the planning system and pave the way for 300,000 new homes a year. But the zonal system, as well as mandatory housebuilding targets, are now expected to be reassessed to stave off a parliamentary rebellion. 

The U-turn follows protests from Tory MPs about the extent of the changes, which were thought to have played a part in a shock byelection defeat in June. 

During a Commons debate last year, former Prime Minister Theresa May branded the proposals 'ill-conceived' and warned that they could 'build up planning permissions, but not houses'.

Under the planning bill proposals, local authorities would have been required to divide local land into three categories: 'growth areas', 'renewal areas' and 'protected areas'. In 'protected areas' such as floodplains and the green belt, restrictions would generally remain on development. However in 'renewal zones' local authorities would have had to look favourably on new planning applications, while in 'growth zones' planning applications that met the adopted local plans would automatically win initial consent.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government (MHCLG) is to be renamed the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

This article originally appeared on Architects' Journal

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Government Planning