New players in the planning system?

The Housing and Planning Bill recently received its third reading in the House of Commons and was passed by 309 votes to 216. Over the festive period over 60 pages of new clauses and amendments were added.

The Government has been widely criticised over the last week for the scheduling of the third reading which, due to a number of urgent questions in the House, was delayed till after 9pm and continued into the early hours of the morning.

Housing and Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, said the new clauses introduced to the Bill would “test the benefits of introducing competition in the processing of planning applications.”

One clause in particular has been controversial, the introduction of ‘alternative providers’. This will see the introduction of pilot schemes allowing applicants to choose whether to submit a planning application to the relevant planning authority or to an alternative provider for processing. Many have branded this the ‘privatisation of planning’. However, the final decision will still remain the responsibility of the relevant local planning authority and the pilot schemes will run for a limited time only.

Other amendments included a change to the way s106 agreement disputes are handled and new powers for the Secretary of State to intervene in setting conditions for the provision of affordable housing.

A popular amendment, tabled by the Conservative MP and Mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith MP, received wide-spread support from both sides of the House. The amendment requires the replacement of every high value council home sold in London, with two new affordable homes.

The Housing and Planning Bill is now making its way through the House of Lords.