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      The Wokingham Society

     Working to protect Wokingham town's past, present and future

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Government proposals on Planning for the Future

In August 2020 the Government issued a White Paper entitled Planning for the Future, setting out wide-ranging plans for reforming the planning system in England and Wales. It invited responses to a set of questions based on the proposals in its document. The Society’s Executive Committee’s reply can be seen here.

At the same time the Government consulted on its plans for future housing numbers. The Committee’s reply can be seen here.
These responses were very much in line with those submitted by Wokingham Borough Council, which was particularly opposed to the doubling of existing housing targets that would ensue for the Government’s proposed revised formula. Following, and perhaps as a result of, a by-election defeat, the formula was changed in response to objections, especially from MPs, that it runs counter to the ‘levelling up’ policies relating to the north of England.

The Government subsequently issued a third consultation paper on extending permitted development rights to all types of buildings, including those in conservation areas. Here is the Committee’s submission.

Subsequently much of the White Paper was shelved in order that a newly appointed Minister for Levelling Up could consult on and come forward with proposals for the planning system that would be likely to command parliamentary agreement. This has led to a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which moderates the original aims in the White Paper, especially in respect of retaining requirements for the local community to be consulted on draft local Plans and on major proposed developments.

More recently the appointment of a new Prime Minister leaves the fate of that Bill uncertain. Instead the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in a mini-budget a relaxed planning restrictions in new “investment zones” and the Government entered into discussions with 38 local authorities to establish these investment zones.

Separately a new planning bill has been announced that aims to speed up consents for major infrastructure projects and revise environmental assessment rules. With the withdrawal of most of the fiscal elements of the mini-budget, it is not clear whether the government will press ahead with any of these proposed changes to the planning system.