Premium planning service revealed by the Chancellor to speed up approvals

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has unveiled a scheme to speed up planning applications for major business developments through payments that would be refunded if faster timelines were not met.

Hunt said the Government is set to reform the planning system to speed up approvals and reduce the time it takes for new projects to connect to the grid.

Reforms will be made off the back of the National Infrastructure Commission’s April recommendations, to return the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project regime to the two-and-a-half-year average consenting time achieved in 2012.

Hunt promised to introduce a premium planning service across England, with guaranteed accelerated decision dates for major applications and fee refunds wherever these are not met. In addition, it will invest £5m to incentivise greater use of Local Development Orders in England, to end delays for businesses so that key commercial projects secure planning permission faster.

He said: “It takes too long to approve infrastructure projects and business planning applications. Many businesses say they will be willing to pay more if they know their application will be approved faster.

“I will reform the system to allow local authorities to recover the full costs of major business planning applications, in return for being required to meet guaranteed faster timelines. If they fail, fees will be refunded automatically, with the application being processed free of charge.”

£600bn will be used over the next five years towards public sector infrastructure, to boost energy efficiency, meet net-zero targets and improve vital public services. 

The Government said it is providing £110m of funding to support local planning authorities to deliver high-quality schemes to offset nutrient pollution, unlocking planning permissions that are otherwise stalled.

£120m will be directed to combat homelessness, as well as the Local Housing Allowance rising to help families on low incomes. This is in addition to £1bn already provided through the Homelessness Prevention Grant between 2022-25.

The existing £3bn Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme will be expanding by a further £3bn to support housing associations to access cheaper loans for quality and energy efficiency works as well as new homes.

Energy efficient infrastructure was a key focus, as the government looks to encourage greater private investment in low-carbon infrastructure, by extending its priorities for projects.

It says unnecessary planning constraints will be removed, particularly through the expansion of electric vehicle charging hubs. 

An action plan will is set to be created to halve the time to build new grid infrastructure to seven years and offer up to £10,000 off electricity bills over ten years for those living closest to new transmission infrastructure, in response to a review by the Electricity Network Commissioner, Nick Winser.

Plans for transport included another commitment to deliver East West Rail, with a statutory consultation due next year and, as part of Network North, the £2.5bn West Yorkshire mass transit system.

Subject to business case approval, the government will also provide £23m for a bus network to unlock housing in the ‘Docklands 2.0’ as part of the £150m allocation to London from the Brownfield, Infrastructure and Land Fund.

For local housing, £450m will be granted for the third round of the Local Authority Housing Fund to deliver 2,400 new housing units to house Afghan refugees and ease wider housing and homelessness pressures. This will bring the total amount spent on the Local Authority Housing Fund to more than £1.2bn.

£2m will be made available for Leeds City Council to maximise the delivery of new homes.