We welcome the 'brain belt'

The government's plan to develop the so-called 'brain belt between Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes will further ignite the region's economy and help to increase sharing of knowledge and talent between the two cities.

Jon Jennings, Director, Cheffins Planning & Development Team said:

“We welcome the proposed changes to the planning system, in particular the announcement that Government is fully committed to delivering five new garden towns in the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Corridor. This plan will also unlock a number of potential sites in between the two ancient university towns and will help with the development of the Golden Triangle which has set pulses racing in government for the past few years.

The new approach to viability is welcomed and will provide certainty on all sides as to what will be required, reducing delays associated with viability assessments prior to the determination of a planning application. Although adequate resources are needed to assess viability prior to and during the examination of local plan. The proposal of the National Planning Policy Framework to introduce a new standard method for calculating housing need is supported however, this should focus on the number of houses actually being built rather than just those permitted.

The proposal to provide for at least 20 per cent of all the sites allocated for housing in the NPPF to be half an hectare or less is a weakening of the 25 per cent of the sites previously mentioned. However, it needs to be considered whether the allocation of such sites via a Local Plan is the most appropriate method to actually expedite delivery and there are questions over whether this issue should be addressed by some form of windfall policy.

The proposal to impose conditions to bring forward development within two years should be treated with caution. Sufficient resources will need to be available to ensure that conditions and other legal requirements are discharged in a timely manner. Similarly the proposals to use greater levels of brownfield land in Green Belts for housing is welcomed, however this shouldn’t be at the expense of our countryside and needs to be approached in a cautious and sustainable manner.

To achieve the goals set out in the NPPF would require a huge increase in investment in planning authorities to provide the skills and resources, although the recent increase on planning application fees were brought in to ease the pressure on Local Authorities, further and significant investment is needed to aid delivery.

Further details will be released in due course and we will await their delivery to find out the specifics of how many new homes we can expect throughout this swathe of central England.”

Jon Jennings, Partner, can be contacted on 01223 271985.

Click here to view the consultation document.

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