Planning system revolution will help Yorkshire rebuild after Covid’s economic damage: Christopher Pincher

THE North’s economic comeback in the weeks and months ahead relies on businesses and communities across Yorkshire being able to reopen safely and get back on their feet.

Boris Johnson visited a building site on the day the Government announced moves to relax planning rules.

It relies on investment driving job creation and creating the right economic conditions to make the region’s shift from response to recovery a success.

Earlier this month, my Department announced more than £122.7m of investment for Yorkshire from our Getting Building Fund, kick-starting 47 ‘shovel-ready’ projects and creating thousands of new jobs.

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We also committed £111m to deliver 7,000 new homes on brownfield land in West Yorkshire and Sheffield so that Government investment can help Yorkshire’s construction industry to restart and recover while building the homes the region desperately needs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to streamline planning rules and regulations.

I recognise, however, that Government investment alone can only go so far in fulfilling our promise to help the country build back and build better as we rebound from the economic damage this virus has wrought.

That is why we have now announced the greatest shake-up of England’s planning system in over 70 years.

Our reforms will see much-needed homes built quicker by ensuring local housing plans are developed and agreed in 30 months – down from the current seven years.

They also mandate that every area has an adopted local housing plan so much needed homes can be built for local people in cities like York.

The Government wants to speed up the planning process.

Our Planning for the Future White Paper also puts local communities at the heart of the new planning process by moving away from antiquated practices such as putting notices on lampposts toward a more interactive and accessible map-based digital system.

In the same way that online banking has transformed the interaction between the bank and the consumer, we will place planning at the fingertips of local people, transforming their relationship with local government and giving them greater input into the development taking place around them.

Our reforms include protections for the green belt and greenfield land that surround Yorkshire’s beautiful cities while prioritising development on brownfield land so that we can see more transformational regeneration projects, such as the redevelopment of City Boulevard in Leeds.

Building back does not end when a new housing development begins; it is about investing in, and improving, our infrastructure – our roads and transport networks, our schools and playgrounds, so that we can breathe new life into communities after such a long period of social and economic hibernation.

Our Planning for the Future White Paper, therefore, includes a new and simpler system of developer contributions to ensure private firms play their part in funding the infrastructure that should accompany new building.

Complex Section 106 agreements – in which developers make a financial contribution to councils – will be replaced with one simple Infrastructure Levy that can be spent locally on upgrading transport and community facilities and discounting homes for local, first-time buyers.

The reforms will also greatly accelerate the process of repurposing vacant commercial properties and industrial spaces that have stood empty and abandoned, re-thinking how these spaces are used and transforming them into new homes.

Building back affords us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to kick-start a new wave of inclusive growth that lifts up all towns and communities, not just in Yorkshire and the Humber, but across the Northern Powerhouse.

Places which have too often felt left behind having not experienced growth in the same way as the region’s larger cities.

Our blueprint sets out a clear path through which we can continue building greener, more beautiful homes throughout Yorkshire in vibrant communities that are supported by modern infrastructure.

Through putting people at the heart of the planning process, we will fulfil the Prime Minister’s promise to ‘build, build, build’ and bring the North’s economy roaring back into life stronger than ever before.

Christopher Pincher is the Housing Minister and a Conservative MP.

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