Autumn Statement: Planning reforms to provide new 'premium services'

22/11/2023
Dominic Browne

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled planning reforms at both national and local levels in the Autumn Statement, with plans to let councils recover the full cost of planning applications, provided they meet prompt deadlines.

Mr Hunt told Parliament that it takes ‘too long to approve infrastructure projects and business planning applications’ and set out measures to accelerate the process as well as tackle local backlogs, with new 'premium planning services' offering guaranteed accelerated decision dates.

‘The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities [DLUHC] will bring forward plans for authorities to offer guaranteed accelerated decision dates for major developments in England in exchange for a fee, ensuring refunds are given where deadlines are not met and limiting the use of extension of time agreements,' the Autumn Statement document states.

‘This will also include measures to improve transparency and reporting of planning authorities’ records in delivering timely decision-making.’

The Government said it will invest an additional £32m across housing and planning to unlock thousands of homes, including £5m 'to incentivise greater use of Local Development Orders in England, to end delays for businesses'.

The Treasury also pledged to progress the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) recommendations by delivering reforms to return the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project regime to the two-and-a-half-year average consenting time achieved in 2012.

Energy infrastructure was a key focus, with the Government stating that ‘substantive action is required to address the lengthy wait to connect to the electricity grid’.

Reforms to the grid connection process would ‘cut waiting times, including freeing up over 100GW of capacity so that projects can connect sooner’.

The 'significant majority of projects will get their requested connection date with no wait and, for viable projects, reduce overall connection delays from five years to no more than six months’ under the Government's Connections Action Plan.

The Government hopes to halve the time it takes to build new grid infrastructure to seven years. 

Ministers pledged further updates to the National Networks and Energy National Policy Statements 'will be designated in the coming months'.

Analysis by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) and reviewed by the Energy Systems Catapult estimates that, once embedded, the Government's grid reforms 'could increase investment temporarily by an average of £10 billion per year over the next ten years, speeding up the transition to net zero'.

As a sweetener to those impacted by the roll-out of more energy infrastructure - including new sustainable energy coming from wind turbines in rural and coastal areas - Mr  Hunt confirmed people living near new pylons and electricity substations will receive up to £10,000 off energy bills over a decade.

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