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UK planning and housing minister Brandon Lewis has proposed new measures to speed up the planning system and provide new homes more quickly. He explained that so-called section 106 agreements, which attach conditions on a planning permission being granted, can often lead to extended negotiations that delay the planning application process. Now Lewis is seeking views on plans to speed up the process, getting planning permission agreed and workers on site more quickly. He said they can add months to the planning process and stalling work on the homes communities want. ‘Section 106 planning agreements can bring great benefits to local communities but too often they drag out planning applications for months. I’m proposing measures that will speed up the process, get planning permissions granted quicker and workers on site earlier, all the while keeping the community benefits that these agreements can bring,’ he explained. Section 106 agreements put requirements on planning applicants to make the proposals suitable for the area. These include mitigating a scheme’s impact such as through requiring improved transport to service it, providing an affordable housing element or requiring contributions from the applicant to be spent on other local schemes. The proposals are now open for consultation and include setting clear time limits so section 106 negotiations are completed in line with the existing eight to 13 week target for planning applications to be processed rather than letting them slow the whole planning process down. They also include requiring parties to start discussions at the beginning of the planning application process, rather than the current system where negotiations can often start towards the end. There are plans for a dispute resolution process where negotiations stall preventing development, using standardised documents to avoid agreements being drafted from scratch for each and every application and potential legislation in the next Parliament to give the new measures teeth. Lewis pointed out that this is the latest in a range of measures the government has taken to improve the planning system. Others include introducing the National Planning Policy Framework to cut more than 1,000 pages of planning guidance to around 50 and making it easier to convert existing commercial and retail buildings for residential use. Also on the agenda is removing the requirement for affordable housing and other contributions from small developers, saving up to £140,000 per home and at the same time maintaining strong protections for the green belt, which continues to prevent urban sprawl. The consultation on these proposals runs until 19 March 2015 and also seeks views on removing the need to contribute to affordable housing where a developer is building student accommodation. Continue reading →
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