UK planning reforms look to be ‘step in the right direction’, says Knight Frank specialist


The UK government’s recently-announced “landmark” reforms to the planning process have been welcomed by leading property consultancy Knight Frank.

Andrew Davis, who heads Knight Frank’s Regional Residential Development Valuation and Consulting team based in Birmingham, said:

“At face value, the changes proposed in the government’s Planning for the Future White Paper look to be a step in the right direction. The planning system is in need of reform - rather than piecemeal change - and simplification has the potential to accelerate both overall development volumes and investment.”

Under the new proposals, new zoning measures will see land designated into one of three categories; for growth, for renewal and for protection. There will be a nationally-applied, consistent set of development management policies, and local planning authorities are to prepare area-specific land use and design criteria for the types of development they would like to see.

Andrew Davis commented:

“The emphasis on developing brownfield sites ought to prove popular with communities, as will the power to designate areas for protection from development. A more efficient and, crucially, consistent approach to planning approvals will be welcomed by all those involved in the delivery of new housing.

“However, while the scale of ambition is welcome, there are questions about what timescales are required to implement all this change. There are some major proposals contained within the White Paper which effectively amount to tearing up the current system and starting again. The government will certainly want to implement this reform before the next election cycle commences.”

He points out that local plans currently take an average of seven years to be written and agreed.

“So the 30 month time frame set out for them to be in place could be seen as a bit of a stretch, particularly with a renewed push for meaningful community engagement at the front end of plan making.

“Implementation will not only require the government to work in tandem with the planning profession to put into practice, but will also need some serious resourcing from local planning authorities to move to consistent digital platforms and use enhanced data at a time when funding is already stretched.”

He added:

“That said, this is just a consultation document. What we end up with might be slightly different to what has been announced today, especially following consultation and once the practical details of implementation are ironed out.

“Overall, then, this does feels like a positive step forward, but we need a lot more detail before we can fully understand how this will impact growth, development and delivery."

Key points in the announcement:

  • New zoning measures will see land designated into one of three categories; for growth, for renewal and for protection.

  • There will be a nationally applied, consistent set of development management policies and local planning authorities are to prepare area specific land use and design criteria for the types of development they would like to see.

  • Whilst ‘substantial development’ of larger sites will be encouraged in growth areas, ‘renewal’ areas will be appropriate for ‘gentle densification’ and smaller scale, infill and town centre developments where there will be presumption in favour of such development where they accord with policy.

  • In areas identified as ‘protected’, development will be restricted i.e. green belt, areas of outstanding natural beauty, local wildlife sites and important green spaces.

  • Brownfield land and unconstrained sites are to be prioritised and public sector land disposals should support SME developers and self-build projects.

  • The other radical change is the replacing of the two mechanisms which councils use to extract local investment and affordable housing from a development. Section 106 affordable housing and community infrastructure levy payments will be replaced with a new infrastructure levy based on the value of a development. This will apply to a fixed proportion of the value of a development, above a set threshold (which will be set nationally). Small sites would potentially be exempt from the payments.

  • There will be also be fast-track system for “beautiful building” for developers and all homes must be carbon-neutral by 2050.

For further information, please contact:

Ken Harrison, HPR Marketing,, 07801 649045

Ella Mullings, Commercial PR Manager at Knight Frank,, +44 2038 970 044