Housing and Planning

Planning reforms not the “radical shake-up” some expected, says IEA expert

In response to the government’s planning proposals, Dr Kristian Niemietz, Head of Political Economy at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“The announced planning reforms are a step in the right direction. But they are not the ‘radical shake-up’ some were expecting.

“The basic idea is to make the planning system less discretionary, and more rules-based. Rather than haggling over every individual planning application, it will be decided in advance where development will be allowed, where it will not be, and where it might be. This will include the creation of development zones, where planning applications will be fast-tracked, and where there is an automatic presumption in favour of development.

“So far, so good. Fears that this will erode standards, or lead to the creation of ‘slum housing’, are unfounded. Zoning codes, under which planning permission is more or less automatically granted in some places, have existed for a long time in other developed countries, and they have not led to anything of the sort. There is nothing ‘radical’ about this: it is a perfectly conventional planning tool.  

“The danger is not that the new system will be too permissive. The danger is that it might not make that much difference, in practice. It remains to be seen how extensive these new development zones will be. How many of them will be created? Will they be in places where housing demand is highest? 

“It also remains to be seen how pro-development they really will be. What happens if local councils, under pressure from already well-housed NIMBYs and obstructionists, continue to drag their feet, as they do now?

“And this is before we get to the fact that the government has foolishly ruled out reviewing green belt boundaries. As a result, vast swathes of agricultural land in areas of high housing demand, most of which could be easily developed, and much of which has neither a high environmental nor a high scenic value, will remain off-limits to development.”


Notes to editors

For media enquiries, please contact Emily Carver, Media Manager, 07715942731

Dr Kristian Niemietz is available for further comment. 

For additional IEA reading on planning reform:

Raising the Roof

 The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties. 

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