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In recent weeks, we’ve written several Advantage blogs looking at how construction can recover from the impact of COVID-19 – focusing on new initiatives from the coronavirus recovery plan to the Bounceback Innovation Challenge.

In the latest bid to aid construction’s recovery, council leaders are calling for local authorities to be given more powers over housebuilding to help the economy bounce back from the coronavirus crisis.

As reported by the Independent, experts have warned that the global pandemic could cut the number of homes built in London alone this year by half.

Ministers are preparing to launch a major overhaul of the planning system in England, to speed up approvals for new developments in a bid to aid the economy.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has said it is time to re-think the planning system “from first principles” following reports at the weekend that the government is considering the introduction of US-style zonal planning in the UK. Building Design featured the following quote from Jenrick:

“The time has come to speed up and simplify this country’s overly bureaucratic planning process”, adding that the government was “thinking boldly and creatively about the planning system to make it fit for the future.”

However, as Advantage looked at the clear signs that a major planning shake-up is imminent from central government, we noted that The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England, is stressing that it is vital they retain their planning powers. These, they say, create resilient as well as prosperous communities.

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Quoted by the Independent, Councillor David Renard, LGA planning spokesperson, said: “As the nation recovers from coronavirus, it is more vital than ever that councils are able to lead the recovery effort from a local level. This includes making sure that councils retain the planning powers needed to deliver resilient, prosperous places that meet the needs of their communities.

“The planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding. Nine in 10 planning applications are approved by councils.”

He added:

“Councils are committed to building the homes that communities need, making sure they are appropriate for the local environment, decent and fit for purpose, affordable, and with the right infrastructure in place.

“Councils need powers to tackle our housing backlog and step in where a site with planning permission lies dormant and house building has stalled.”

If powers are transferred from local councils to development corporations, thus speeding up permission for infrastructure building, Advantage expects we’ll be hearing more from David Renard over the coming months!

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