• Development Intelligence

Planning Bill: dead before arrival?

Commons Library / CC by 2.0

With all the arrogant Cummings-esque noise surrounding the publishing of the Planning White Paper last August, you would have thought the world had just fundamentally changed. It was a little like watching the England football team meander through a win in the last 16 of a competition whilst watching the media report it like they’d just won the World Cup. Hang on…

But the zealots have all departed Downing Strasse, and with the Amersham by-election result being blamed on planning reform, there is now open revolt on the Tory backbenches and in the shires, apparently necessitating Robert Jenrick to be spending many hours talking Tory MPs off the ledge about the contents of the forthcoming Planning Bill.

We did tell you. First here, in May 2020 before the Planning White Paper was even published. And then here, here and here back in September 2020, after the Planning White Paper had finally been published. All this planning reform malarky was never going to end well.

So with Tory backbenchers and shire councillors on the march, whither the Planning Bill?

Well it’s probably not dead. Although Bojo loves a good U-turn, so much hype has been heaped on the Bill it really would be quite difficult to bury it completely.

The most likely outcome is that a much skinnier Bill will in due course be published shorn of much of its rabble rousing, excitable, big bang verbiage. Some aspects are of course already in progress: a published draft national design code, 14 pilot councils busy working up the first local authority design codes, a consultation on the new Infrastructure Levy etc. Some aspects have already bitten the dust; remember the ‘magic algorithm’ anyone?

The big question is the whole issue of zoning – growth, renewal and protection zones. That is the current internecine Tory battle; Jenrick trying to hold the line, the massed ranks of Tory MPs and councillors trying to kill the concept altogether.

If there is a lesson in all this for politicians, it’s this: revolutions tend not to work out so well. Incremental evolution delivers more slowly, yes, but actually tends to happen. Maybe start off by not employing revolutionaries in the first place – that would be you, Mr Cummings!