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BRITISH CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE - PLANNING SYSTEM REFORM PRINCIPLES

February 7, 2017

INTRODUCTION
 
The mission of the British Chambers of Commerce derives directly from the mission of its shareholders and customers – the accredited Chamber Network.

The core mission of every accredited UK Chamber of Commerce is to:
•  Speak up for their business community, by providing a strong Voice.
•  Help firms succeed locally, nationally and globally through Trade;
•  Connect and support businesses and in their area through Membership;
•  Improve the local business environment and build a better Place

Chambers of Commerce bring together business communities rooted in places. Our Network’s depth and strength at a local and regional level sets us apart from other business organisations.

The focus on place – both in government and business – is increasing, driven by devolution and decision making moving from Whitehall to the regions and nations. Against this background, Chambers’ remain the pre-eminent champions of local and regional business communities and are key players in local economic development.

Ahead of the Government’s White Paper on Housing and Planning for England, the BCC’s Expert Planning Panel has assessed how the planning system is currently working for business, how it impacts on the delivery of housing, infrastructure and local economic growth, and where improvements can be made.

Chambers believe the following principles must guide the Government’s review of the planning system in England.
 

 
MAINTAIN THE CORRECT BALANCE OF LAND FOR HOMES AND JOBS
 
 
  • New housing must not come at the expense of employment.    Councils need to objectively plan for employment land to ensure that the imperative to meet demand for housing does not force out other uses and create problems for the future.
  • Councils should be required to maintain a 5-year quality employment land supply, in the right locations, to balance the supply of housing land. If it is necessary to release vacant employment land for housing, alternative quality employment sites must be identified and released. 
  • Councils need to ensure there is an adequate supply of commercial office space to mitigate the conversion to residential uses of vacant space in towns and city centres.
  • Building houses on employment land adjacent to existing businesses creates problems for business and residents. The legitimate operations and growth potential of businesses must not be restricted by the needs and expectations of new residents.   The rights of existing business occupants must take precedence.
  • There needs to be a structured and intelligent release of the greenbelt to increase land supply for housing in the areas where there is greatest need. The principle of greenbelt swaps should be considered as a means of minimising greenbelt loss whilst ensuring that much needed development is delivered.
 
 

 
STRATEGIC CERTAINTY
 
 
  • Changes introduced by the NPPF took several years to impact at a local level.  Therefore, any significant changes introduced in the White Paper must be accompanied by clear guidance for business, councils and communities to ensure the benefits are realised quickly, to stimulate activity and to avoid creating further delays in the system.
  • There must be an up-to-date spatial plan in every council area to provide certainty for businesses and communities. The timescales and stages for the preparation of such plans needs to be reviewed to help this process.
  • The failure of the Duty To Cooperate must be addressed.  Strategic Economic Plans set by LEPs and the local plans set by councils must be properly aligned and set more ambitious growth targets.
  • Government must reduce the complexity, duplication, layering and contradictory nature of plan making across the emerging economic geographies.   Combined authorities need stronger powers over spatial planning to prevent fragmentation and enable the delivery of ambitious growth, new settlements and major infrastructure.  To be effective, these combined authority spatial plans should be given development plan status.
  • To bring forward new housing and infrastructure development, the undue weight given to neighbourhood plans, especially in the early stages, needs to be revised.    More positive messaging is required to help communities understand the economic benefits of development at a local level.
 
 
SPEED UP THE PLANNING PROCESS
 
 
  • Councils must have skilled, confident and experienced staff resources to reduce delay, improve the speed and quality of decision-making, and ensure consistency.
  • Council planning committee members must have regular training, improve their understanding of the role and contribution of business and develop a more positive relationship with the private sector.
  • Conditions should be relevant, proportionate and streamlined to reduce cost and delay, provide confidence for developers around timescales, and enable development to be brought forward quickly.
  • The system must be speeded up at the level of the Planning Inspectorate and the length of time allowed for judicial review must be curtailed. (context about this what do mean about being slow) distinction between major schemes and other things – resources to ensure judicial reviews to current average of this to that
 
 
FUNDING INFRASTRUCTURE
 
 
  • There is a need to address concerns about the operation of the Community Infrastructure Levy regime in certain parts of the North and the Midlands arising from the limited viability of some forms of development.   The government needs to review this one-size-fits-all policy to ensure that infrastructure is delivered in all parts of the country.
  • The local business community must be fully engaged in the setting of charging schedules.
DELIVERING HOUSING
 
 
  • More small sites should be released for house building
  • Greater clarity should be given surrounding the relationship between affordable housing and starter homes.
  • More awareness and understanding is needed of shared ownership and Help to Buy schemes relating to new development to enable them to reach their potential.
  • Greater investment is needed in apprenticeships to address skills shortages in the construction sector.   Infrastructure projects should be incentivised to use local supply chains and generate apprenticeship opportunities.
 
 
BCC’s Expert Panel
 
 
The BCC Planning and Infrastructure Panel comprises expert legal professionals and planning practitioners drawn from Chambers of Commerce across the country.  They provide a national, regional and local perspective on how the planning system is working for business and local economies.  Through the Chamber, Panel members are active in bringing together businesses and the public sector to plan for local growth, infrastructure delivery and economic development.

Simon Prescott, Senior Planning Partner, Barton Willmore, Bristol
Stephen Ashworth, Dentons, London
Amanda Berrisford – Partner, Shulmans LLP, Leeds
Stuart Irvine – Office Director, Turley, Southampton
Carl Copestake – Partner – Knights LLP, Staffordshire
Jonathan Cage – MD, Create Consulting Engineers, Norwich
Ed Clark, Analyst, Centre for Cities, London
Philip Baker – Banks Group, North East England
Simon Neate – Chairman, Indigo, London
Kevin Adderley, Group MD, Egerton House, Wirral
Stephen Hollowood – Director, GVA, Birmingham
Mike Spicer - British Chambers of Commerce
Jane Gratton, BCC Planning Fellow - Deputy CEO, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce
 

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