The Government has published the Levelling Up White Paper, which outlines twelve missions aiming to refocus resources to level up the UK by 2030.
The proposed policy objectives look to narrow spatial economic disparities, increase domestic public investment in R&D outside the Greater South-East, improve local public transport systems outside London, increase the number of first-time buyers, improve the quality of rented homes, ensure the majority of people have 5G coverage, improve education and health outcomes, reduce crime and rejuvenate town centres.
It had been anticipated that the White Paper would take forward the proposed planning reforms set out in the Planning for the Future consultation in August 2020. Whilst it restates the need for reform, details are still to follow in due course.
It does however set out that the government are developing models for a new infrastructure levy and will enhance compulsory purchase powers to support town centre regeneration, support the re-using brownfield land, take a positive approach to employment land and increase engagement with infrastructure providers in plan making.
In relation to Green Belt, the White Paper sets out plans to empower local leaders and communities to enhance and maintain protection of the Green Belt and for further greening the Green Belt in England. It states that the ensuring natural beauty is accessible to all will be central to the planning system, with improved Green Belts around towns and cities, supported by Local Nature Recovery Strategies.
The White Paper restates the government’s ambition of delivering 300,000 new homes per year in England by the mid-2020s. It states that councils are to be given more tools to regenerate land to achieve this goal.
The White Paper sets out proposals for every part of England to be offered a ‘London-style’ devolution deal by 2030 with a simplified, long-term funding settlement through new County Deals, deepening the powers of existing Mayors and simplifying the devolution framework.
The first 9 areas to begin negotiations to agree new county deals and further Mayoral Combined Authorities deals will be Cornwall, Derbyshire & Derby, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, Durham, Hull & East Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire & Nottingham, and Suffolk.
The White Paper also announces negotiations for a new Mayoral Combined Authority deal for York and North Yorkshire and expanded Mayoral Combined Authority deal for the North East, as well as negotiations for new devolution deals with the West Midlands and Greater Manchester to extend their powers.
The White Paper sets out that the government will support 20 towns and city centres, starting with Wolverhampton and Sheffield, to undertake ambitious regeneration projects. This will be led by Homes England with an extended remit for regenerating towns and cities.
The White Paper launches a new £1.5 billion Levelling Up Home Building Fund to boost home ownership, which will provide loans to SMEs and support the UK government’s wider regeneration agenda.
The White Paper explains that the government will target £100m of investment in three new Innovation Accelerators, private-public-academic partnerships to boost research and development in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Glasgow City-Region.
The White Paper restates the government’s support for Neighbourhood Planning and sets out that a review of neighbourhood governance in England is to be launched, looking at how to make it easier for local people and community groups. The review will also look at the role and functions of parish councils in England and how to make them quicker and easier to establish.
Pegasus Group is disappointed that more details on the proposed planning reforms haven’t been shared as part of the White Paper. The wait continues on how the proposed planning reforms set out in 2020 will shape up. There is a growing possibility that there won’t be any significant legislative reforms to the planning system in the short term, so we will also be watching this space for future changes to the NPPF and NPPG.
The proposals announced today could see a significant change in the structure of local government, and Pegasus Group will be monitoring this closely, as it has the potential to impact on the way planning services are delivered. We consider that the speed of the changes will be critical, to avoid disruption to development plans caused by uncertainty.
The proposal for regeneration projects led by Homes England in 20 towns and city centres is supported by Pegasus Group, this provides an opportunity for investment to support development in these areas but there continues to be significant affordability issues in London and the South East which also need to be addressed.