Commission proposes plan for private sector to unblock planning system

By Paul Marinko | 29 February 2024

A report has called for the private sector to invest in a ‘pipeline fund’ aimed at clearing the planning backlog and boosting regeneration.

The Purposeful Finance Commission’s report says the fund would be designed to ‘help councils clear planning backlogs’ and speed up the ‘cumbersome’ process which it argues is holding back regeneration and economic growth opportunities.

It points to government figures that show only 21% of major planning applications were processed in the statutory 13-week period over the past year, down from 57% ten years ago.

The aim would be for the fund to raise £22.5m over three years to supplement the Government’s Planning Skills Delivery Fund.

Tracy Blackwell, chair of the commission, said: ‘A lack of planning expertise and capacity at local authorities is a significant barrier to investment, regeneration and the creation of social value across the country. We simply do not have the capacity as a country to handle the backlog of applications.

‘The Pipeline Fund would be a brilliant public-private partnership that helps us achieve common aims, where we all need projects to be reviewed by local authorities in a timely and efficient manner, which then helps spread economic prosperity more evenly across the country.’

The report, Places and Purpose, also recommends that:

  • A ‘National Investment Register’ be established to pull together data and provide ‘a clear indicator of where developments are coming to fruition, and which local areas are struggling to attract either public or private capital’.
  • Large developments should have to demonstrate their ‘purpose’ to communities to achieve ‘buy-in’.
  • More devolutions should be rolled out across England to provide ‘single funding settlements to empower local leaders to better allocate money according to their region’s needs’.
  • Competitive bid funding should be phased out as a priority and replaced by a system that incentivises ‘collaboration between local authorities’.

The commission was set up to identify and overcome barriers to regeneration and includes leading figures from the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester and West Midlands combined authorities.

Its report comes days after the Competition and Markets Authority published a review into UK housebuilding which raised ‘fundamental concerns’ about the ‘complex’ planning regime and poor quality housing.

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