All new streets to be tree-lined under Government plans to end 'identikit estates'

Gordon Rayner
·3 min read
Robert Jenrick will publish a white paper entitled Planning for the Future, which will form the basis for new laws - Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Robert Jenrick will publish a white paper entitled Planning for the Future, which will form the basis for new laws - Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

All new streets will have to be tree-lined under proposed new planning laws that will bring an end to "identikit estates".

Green belt land will remain protected and the new rules will be designed to ensure that new-build homes are in keeping with their surroundings.

Ministers will also speed up the planning process in what Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, has called a "once in a generation" reform of the system. Mr Jenrick will publish a white paper entitled "Planning for the Future", which will form the basis for new laws expected to be in place by next year.

He said on Wednesday that the current planning system has been "a barrier to building the homes people need" and promised to create "better quality neighbourhoods" around the country.

The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government said the reforms will mean "all new streets are to be tree lined" and a fast-track system for "beautiful buildings" through new design guidance.

A Government source said: "Lots of people are worried about their children and grandchildren being able to get on the housing ladder, but they are still nervous about new development.

"The best antidote to those local concerns is good design. Often the reason people are against developments is because they are identikit estates that add nothing to the locality.

"People want green space, they want trees and the sort of things most of us would like when we are buying a house. What looks right in London won't look right in the Cotswolds, so it's vital that new homes are designed to fit in with their surroundings."

Local design guidance will dictate to developers what they can and cannot build in specific parts of the country.

The reforms are partly designed to help the Government meet its target of building 300,000 new homes per year to end the housing shortage, and will cut the time it takes councils to draw up a local plan for housing needs from seven years to 30 months.

Online maps and data will also be used to make sure local communities are consulted from the start of the planning process, which ministers say will increase transparency.

In addition, developers will have to pay a new Infrastructure Levy, which will be a fixed proportion of the value of the development to help pay for local roads, schools, playgrounds and discounted homes for first-time buyers. 

The levy will replace the existing Community Infrastructure Levy and so-called Section 106 agreements, which ministers say are more complex and can lead to delays.

However, the National Housing Federation warned that scrapping Section 106 agreements was a mistake because they require private developers to build a certain amount of social housing. It said almost 28,000 affordable homes were built last year – half the total – through Section 106 agreements. 

The Government said its First Homes scheme would make houses available to first-time buyers with a 30 per cent discount.

Mr Jenrick believes streamlining the planning system will benefit small and medium-sized local builders, who built 40 per cent of homes 30 years ago but now build just 12 per cent because of the "risks, delays and costs" of the current planning system.