Raynsford Review calls for ambitious planning reform

Raynsford Review calls for ambitious planning reform

What is the Raynsford Review?

Earlier this month, the Raynsford Review of Planning was released by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA). This review, chaired by former planning minister Nick Raynsford, was given the crucial task of examining the state of the planning system in England, recommending how it can be transformed to deliver the homes, infrastructure and places our communities need.

Shelter fights for the provision of high-quality, genuinely affordable homes across the country, in particular social-rented homes. Proper planning of the tenures and types of housing that we need, where these homes are built, and for whom, is key to realising that vision.

Historically planning has played a vital role in delivering genuinely affordable homes and neighbourhoods, particularly during the golden age of social house building following World War Two. But, today, the planning system is limited in its ability to play a strong and proactive role in facilitating the delivery of the high-quality social-rented homes that we need. For example, through local authorities losing planning control over thousands of housing developments that have come forward over the last few years.

In the wake of this issue, the release of the Raynsford Review is greatly welcomed. The review pulls no punches about the need for comprehensive changes to our planning system, making 24 recommendations. These range from giving communities more of a say in what gets built locally to strengthening local authorities’ ability to demand greater social and affordable housing contributions from developers.

In this blog, we discuss two of its most welcome recommendations that can help the planning system to deliver the homes we really need.

Reversing the expansion of permitted development rights

The Raynsford Review is rightly concerned about the planning deregulation that has taken place over the last several years through the expansion of permitted development rights (PDR) to include conversions of certain non-residential buildings, such as offices and farming buildings, into housing.

PDR schemes are provided with an automatic national grant of planning permission, meaning that they can bypass the local planning process. That means no community control, no process for ensuring quality or space standards, and no requirement for developers to make any affordable housing contributions. So, developers have a social housing get-out clause even if this is the housing that communities need and want.

Worryingly, government is exploring whether to expand this system to include demolitions of commercial buildings that get redeveloped as housing. This proposal will supercharge the social housing get-out clause that exists under the current PDR system. At a time when there are nearly 277,000 households recorded as homeless in England, this is wholly unacceptable.

Making land more affordable

The review also comes out strongly in favour of reforms to increase the supply of affordable land, recommending that government amend the Compensation Code set out in the 1961 Land Compensation Act. Shelter has long campaigned for reform of this broken legislation, a key driver of our failing housing market and our inability to deliver the social homes that we need.

Currently, if land is compulsorily purchased, the 1961 Land Compensation Act gives landowners a legal right to be paid for the land as if it had residential planning permission that it does not have and may never have received.

The value of land increases by hundreds of times when it gets residential planning permission. These are huge uplifts in value which make it impossible for councils to buy land cheaply enough to build the social homes we desperately need.

Worse, the rules don’t just affect compulsory purchase order (CPO) cases. As landowners know this rule exists, they have no incentive to voluntarily sell their land for less. Landowners know that if a council really wants to see homes built on their land, eventually the council will be forced to compulsorily purchase it at these higher prices.

But, these incentives would be changed by equipping councils with CPO powers that would enable them to compulsorily purchase land at lower and fairer values. Landowners would no longer be able to hold out for sky-high prices before selling their land. Instead, they would be incentivised to voluntarily sell their land for more affordable prices, which would enable the delivery of much needed social housing.

Campaigning for change

The Raynsford Review’s calls to challenge the PDR system and for land reform are vital. If taken on, these will provide important boosts to the currently dire levels of social housebuilding —in the last year an additional 6,463 social homes were delivered, representing only 3% of new housing supply for this period.[1] As homelessness rises and private renting becomes increasingly unaffordable, only social housing provides a genuinely affordable option for millions of people. That is why we will be campaigning for these changes to be made.

[1]MHCLG (2018) Housing supply; net additional dwellings, England: 2017-18, Available: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/756430/Housing_Supply_England_2017-18.pdf