Major reforms to planning laws were the focus of the Queen’s speech today as the government set its agenda for a year that could be a turning point for the construction industry.
The planning law is now to be brought to parliament in the autumn and contains proposals to abolish agreements under Section 106 and replace them with a new infrastructure charge.
It also introduces new construction codes, forcing councils to zone land for “growth,” “protection” or “renewal,” with land marked for growth receiving automatic planning permission. The councils cannot refuse requests that comply with local regulations.
The Queen’s speech said the government plans to press ahead with reforms despite objections from environmental groups.
Ministers reportedly believe that reforms are the best way to strengthen home ownership. This is seen as a factor in the electoral success of the Conservative Party in the “red wall” of former Labor seats over the past two years.
Assael Architecture Managing Director Pete Ladhams welcomed the proposals, saying that the current system “is in dire need of an overhaul”.
He said automatic approval in areas with growth zones will allow architects to “respond quickly to urgent urban needs,” adding that it will increase the government’s chances of meeting its goal of building 300,000 homes a year , “Increase significantly”.
London-based affordable property developer Dolphin Living also supported the plans. Executive director Olivia Harris said it was right that the government reformed planning as part of the post-Covid recovery.
They also supported modular developers. Andrew Shepherd, Managing Director of TopHat, said it could “act as a catalyst for innovation” by spurring the adoption of modern building methods.
Dave Sheridan, chairman of the board of the modular home builder Ilke Homes, said the Queen’s speech was “fantastic news for the home building industry”.
However, the executive director of the Royal Town Planning Institute, Victoria Hills suggested that the zoning proposals require “further nuance” to distinguish between areas that require radical master planning and suburbs and industrial areas that need redevelopment are prepared.
And Liberal Democratic leader Ed Davey has blown plans, saying it will “wrest power from locals and communities, threaten our environment and value green spaces for the benefit of wealthy real estate developers.”
The speech also included confirmation that a building security regulator will be set up under the Building Security Act, which will be introduced this year.
Richard Waterhouse, spokesman for NBS, backed the plans, but said the regulator must have access to digital records and accurate records on behalf of builders “so that transparency is at the heart of the construction industry”.
“Only when this is done do the design teams, engineers and end users have the assurance that they need to know that the products have been specified correctly and according to the correct standards.”
The speech also featured proposals to introduce legislation setting mandatory net zero targets, streamlining government procurement, and legislation to support a “guarantee of lifelong skills” that will allow people to access training throughout their lives to obtain.
Peter Hogg, City Director of Arcadis UK, said the focus on skills is welcome news for the industry as growth “is limited by skills and people whose skills are inconsistent with a rapidly changing job”.
Marie-Claude Hemming, Director of Foreign Affairs at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), welcomed the plans to simplify public procurement and hoped that the government would take into account the results of a review of the current framework.
Turner & Townsend UK chief executive Patricia Moore said procurement is a “crucial piece of the puzzle” for the industry’s ability to execute on government blueprints.
“As the largest customer in the construction industry, the government must take responsibility and initiate this change – accelerate and simplify processes, prioritize local companies, invest in new technologies and mandate sustainable procurement solutions.”