Summer Budget 2015: Planning, infrastructure and development
Chancellor George Osborne took to the hallowed halls of the House of Commons to deliver his highly anticipated Summer/Emergency Budget on Wednesday (July 8th).
But what did the first exclusively-Conservative Budget for nearly two decades have in store for planning, infrastructure and development? Join us as we explore some of the headline initiatives and discuss what impact they may have in the coming years.
The Budget itself was bereft of news on the planning front, however, the promise of more announcements on Friday certainly delivered with Business Secretary Sajid Javid delivering a raft of announcements and reforms which could alter the planning landscape for the future.
In an attempt to resolve long-term snags within the planning system, new sanctions are to be introduced for those councils which do not deal with planning applications quickly enough. Additionally the government will be able to intervene in councils’ local development plans. These will come as a welcome introduction to planners and developers alike.
Another major change which could see not only the planning landscape, but also the landscape of England change drastically, is the announcement that developers could get automatic planning permission to build on disused industrial sites across England. Alongside this, ministers would also be given powers to seize disused land to bring it forward for development and major housing projects could be fast-tracked, thereby boosting housing supply.
The enhancement of compulsory purchase powers will allow for more brownfield land to be brought forward for development, whilst planning powers will be devolved to mayors in London and Manchester. Also in London, rules on extensions could be relaxed.
Describing the UK's infrastructure as 'vital' to the welfare of the UK at large, the Chancellor set out plans for a new road fund that would deliver 'badly' needed improvements to Britain's highways.
By 2020-21 the government aims to have trebled investment in improvements to national road networks compared to 2012-13 levels – investing more than £28 billion in enhancements and maintenance of national and local roads.
Over the last Parliament, the Coalition government invested more than £40 billion in transport and the current administration has committed to spending £56 billion on transport infrastructure during its term.
One such example of its fulfilment of these commitments is the provision of funding to local councils with a view to supporting the development of business cases for the North Devon Link Road and A391 in Cornwall.
We also gained a glimpse at one of Osborne's key initiatives – the Northern Powerhouse. The government envisages a devolved Greater Manchester gaining powers over fire services via its directly-elected Mayor.
Similarly, the formation of a land commission for the city was unveiled, alongside a commitment to further collaboration on children's services and employment programmes.
And Osborne opened the doors to other cities looking to dabble in devolution, stating:
"The historic devolution that we have agreed with Greater Manchester in return for a directly elected mayor is available to other cities who want to go down a similar path."
He went on to reveal that similar devolutionary deals were in the works with Sheffield, Liverpool, Leeds, West Yorkshire and other partner authorities.
The roll-out of 'seamless' oyster-style ticketing in the north was also highlighted, with Osborne announcing £30 million worth of funding for Transport for the North over three years.
Another key point was the push on plans to bolster east-west rail and road connections, with a prioritised list of scheme options to be produced by Budget 2016 and an interim report due in time for the spending review later in 2015.
Next-Generation Digital Economy Centres
With the avowed aim of supporting innovation throughout the country, the government will invest £23 million in six next-generation digital economy centres in London, Swansea, Newcastle, Nottingham, York and Bath.
Leveraging £22 million of additional funding and partnering with Local Enterprise Partnerships, regional councils and local SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) – these centres aim to exploit opportunities across sectors of the digital economy, including the creative industries, finance, healthcare and education.
By way of giving more power to counties and the new, directly-elected mayors that would run these devolved regions, the Chancellor also announced a consultation on passing control over setting Sunday trading hours.
This could see mayors and local authorities becoming able to relax laws if there's an economic case for the move and potentially address some of the quirks of the 21-year-old Sunday Trading Act.
With the Summer Budget jam packed full of announcements, it'll certainly take a while to process its implications for the coming years. If you've got any thoughts you'd like to share on it – or simply want to ask us any questions, be sure to leave us a comment or get in touch via Twitter.