Planning reform Bill welcomed by UK building industry

Taylor Scott International News

Planning in the UK is to be reformed with local communities getting more power and control to shape where new homes will be built under the new Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill. Announced in the annual Queen’s speech, which sets out what will happen in Parliament, the Bill also includes measures to reform and speed up the planning process by minimising delays caused by pre-commencement planning conditions. It has been widely welcomed by the industry. The British Property Federation said that strengthening neighbourhood planning is likely to be extremely effective for ensuring that development is brought about in a way that is supported by local communities and meets their needs. ‘The planning system is often cited as one of the main barriers to development, and pre-commencement planning conditions are an extra burden placed on developers which ultimately slows down the whole process,’ said Melanie Leech, BPF chief executive. However she said that it will depend on the detail yet to come, particularly how it is going to be enforced and how already stretched local authorities will cope. ‘Conditions for development should be agreed as part of the pre-application process, and we would hope that the planning process is not made over-complicated to compensate,’ she added. The compulsory purchase order (CPO) process is set to become clearer, fairer and faster for all those involved and the Bill will see the establishment of and independent National Infrastructure Commission on a statutory basis. On a more controversial points it includes the privatisation of Land Registry. Some believe this will support the delivery of a modern, digitally based land registration service that will benefit the Land Registry’s customers, such as people buying or selling their home. The Government is still consulting on the privatisation of the Land Registry, but its inclusion in the Bill implies that it is going ahead. Leech pointed out that the privatisation of the Land Registry could hold important consequences for the commercial property industry, as security of title is critical to the real estate market. ‘It is hugely important that any changes to the way that the Land Registry is run do not affect this security so that investors can be confident that they own their assets and that if for whatever reason there has been an error in registering their title then they will receive adequate compensation,’ she said. However, the Conveyancing Association (CA), the leading trade body for the conveyancing industry, is against the privatisation. It believes the move would not be in the best interests of clients, the conveyancing profession or the Land Registry itself, based on a number of reasons including its experience of previous privatisations. The Government has argued that privatisation would maximise capital return while maintaining high levels of quality and service, and reducing the burden of control but the CA suggests that such ambitions would not require privatisation. Instead it argues for a potential increase in fees, plus a reversal of the recent halving of… Taylor Scott International

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