A leading property developer has praised the Queen for her “commitment to construction” post COVID in a recent speech she made at the State Opening of Parliament.
LW Developments’ Dean Williamson has welcomed the monarch’s comments to the forthcoming Planning Bill, which aims to promote economic recovery and growth in response to the pandemic.
“There are high hopes for these new regulations, and it was good to hear the Queen talking about them. It was a bold move but to hear Her Majesty refer to the Bill shows she has real commitment to construction, which is exciting and will shape the future of this country,” Dean says.
Last July the Planning Bill completed its report stage and third reading in the Lords and the next step will see MPs vote on the proposed legislation.
“There is great enthusiasm surrounding the new rules within the development and building industry. The Bill is set to completely overhaul the industry and it’s been a long time coming,” Dean explains.
What is next?
Once officially approved the Planning Bill will introduce a new set of rules which have been designed to help businesses adjust to new ways of working post-pandemic.
“These measures support the transition from immediate crisis response and lockdown into recovery and getting the economy moving again,” Dean says.
“Safety also plays a large part in the legislation. The measures will support businesses and help them to implement safer ways of working so everybody can manage the ongoing risks from COVID-19, in particular the need for social distancing.”
What changes can be expected?
The current system is based on a number of rules passed after the Second World War. The new Bill will see the following changes being made:
• Replacing case-by-case planning application assessments with a new zoning system. Going forwards, English councils will be required to classify all land in their area as either protected, for renewal, or for growth.
• In protected areas, planning will be largely restricted. In renewal areas councils should look positively at applications, while in growth areas applications conforming to pre-agreed local plans would automatically gain initial approval.
• Each zone will have a 10-year plan, which local residents will be consulted on. However, residents will have less say on individual applications.
What the critics say
However, not everyone is in favour of the new planning system. Sceptics say the new law will prevent local opponents blocking development in designated “growth zones” and communities will be side-lined.
The charity Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has said the Bill will become a “free for all for development”.
But Dean disagrees, saying he only sees opportunities for everyone.
“Once these changes are introduced it’s going to be far easier to hit house-building targets which means supply and demand will be met. Improving supply is only going to help more people to buy their own home and will eventually drive down inequality and improve opportunity across the country.”
He added: “Change always brings with it controversy, but the country is currently on its knees while the economy deals with the COVID-19 fall out. Something urgently needs to be done to kick-start residential construction and I firmly believe the answer lies in the planning system shake up.”
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Dean Williamson MRICS