Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum

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The future for planning in England - modernisation, the White Paper and environmental policy, and supporting development across the country

April 2021


Price: £95 PLUS VAT
Format: DOWNLOADABLE PDF


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference is bringing together stakeholders with policymakers to examine the future for the planning system in England, and next steps for modernisation and reform.


The conference takes place in the context of the Planning For The Future White Paper, the National Infrastructure Strategy and a range of further government policy initiatives aimed at levelling up English regions and supporting a development-led economic recovery.


Areas for discussion include:


  • the planning white paper - priorities for achieving simplification, increased housebuilding, legal certainty for stakeholders and a balanced approach to land use and management
  • the potential impact of the Environment Bill, looking at net gain and sustainable housing
  • local plans and meeting community needs
  • creating a development-led economic recovery in England

The conference is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from the MHCLG; The Planning Inspectorate; BEIS; DfT; the HSE; HMRC; the Office of Government Property; The Scottish Government; the Cabinet Office; the CCC; Defra; DCMS; DHSC; the DfI, NI; the DfE; the Geospatial Commission; the Government Legal Department; ICCAN; the ONS; the ORR; and the Welsh Government; along with parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons.


The agenda:


  • Modernising the planning system and latest thinking on the scope of planning reform in England
  • Examining the Planning for the Future White Paper and how to address key challenges across the planning system
    • Reform of planning for development and the environment
    • Turning ambitions for house building into action - supporting design innovation, targeted delivery in urban environments, and maintaining and enhancing build quality
    • Providing certainty for stakeholders - legal practicalities for reforming planning systems and frameworks
    • Next steps for land use and management - balancing the needs of developers with maintaining and managing the space for floodwaters
    • Energy-efficient design - how policy can best support innovations in sustainable planning and construction
  • Linking planning reforms with wider policy objectives around reducing regional inequalities and developing infrastructure
  • Latest thinking on the Environment Bill, environmental net gain across the planning process, and delivering sustainable housing
  • A planning system that supports local projects and development across the country - designing local plans, bolstering supply chains, and meeting the needs of communities and businesses
  • Government priorities for planning policy reform, and the scope for creating a development-led economic recovery in England

Areas for discussion:


Policy priorities


  • securing benefits of streamlining - practicalities of getting projects off the ground more quickly by simplifying information requirements and approvals frameworks, and speeding plan-making stages
  • scaling up housing delivery while maintaining build quality:
    • shorter consultation periods - how to ensure that they remain effective, and support cost reductions and affordable housing
    • priorities for policy and stakeholder action - to squeeze poor quality build design out of the system
  • meeting policy reform concerns - strategies for retaining community input and involvement as well as necessary red tape, and ensuring that stakeholders are held to account across the process

Sustainability and biodiversity


  • reform to land use and management, and overcoming sustainability challenges:
    • sustainability safeguards - options so that accelerated approvals do not weaken green belt protections and that brownfield sites are fully utilised
    • the Government’s growth and renewal metrics - how best to sustainably implement these for planning approvals
  • environmental protection across the planning process:
    • the Environment Bill - ambitions for achieving biodiversity net-gain, and how the needs of natural conservation and planning stakeholders can be balanced
    • next steps for sustainable and low-carbon home construction - following the Future Homes Standard consultation
  • addressing biodiversity risks and ensuring reform translates into net gain:
    • identifying key development impacts on the environment
    • the scope of new responsibilities and obligations for developers
    • opportunities for creating nature-based improvements in conjunction with scheme delivery
  • sustainable housing rollout - latest thinking on energy efficiency by design, standards setting, and engaging stakeholders across the development process

Major projects and development at a local level


  • accelerating local plan design and delivery
    • best practice and key steps in local economic recovery and supporting local stakeholders, including:
      • creating more certain and secure approval commitments
      • increasing support for design best practice
      • how best to identify area-specific needs and improvements
    • involving local business and supply chains - local authority engagement and project funding, supporting direct relationships with supply chains, and fostering local jobs and skills creation
    • tacking regional inequality across England - public-private joint working, widening shovel-ready project consents, and shifting key decision-making powers to regional and local groups
  • tackling barriers to major projects - looking at options for:
    • easing evaluation and approvals requirements on a national level
    • providing quicker tools for consent with local decision-makers
    • scaling up cooperation with delivery partners to address national infrastructure deficits

Relevant developments:


  • economic policy - as the Government seeks to move forward with an economic recovery plan:
    • driven by infrastructure and project delivery across England, including through the new £4bn Levelling Up Fund that will support investment in local infrastructure
    • with reform to the planning system a key factor in supporting this objective
  • the Planning for the Future White Paper - outlining the scope of government’s intention for reforming the planning process in England, with key policy priorities, including:
    • accelerating the consultation and approvals process
    • simplifying the frameworks around planning rules and information
    • increasing the supply of land for housing development
    • underpinning net gain as a necessity for new developments
  • the National Infrastructure Strategy - and its outline for developing a holistic and long-term infrastructure plan, with specific attention to planning policy paid in the context of:
    • enabling quicker approvals of major projects
    • revising the methodology for assessing social and economic benefits when considering projects
    • supporting investor confidence
  • the Government’s Project Speed initiative:
    • which sought to bring forward public infrastructure plans and investment through reduced planning barriers
    • with the aim of accelerating economic recovery through streamlined planning frameworks 
  • the National Design Guide from MHCLG - and National Model Design Code, to support well-designed places that work to create character, nurture a sense of community, and are sustainable
  • the Environment Bill - with provisions to ensure biodiversity net gain is considered as part of the development process for new housing and project developments
  • the Social Housing White Paper - including plans to bring forward a new Framework of Green Infrastructure Standards to help local authorities, developers and communities to improve green infrastructure, including greenspace provision
  • New legal protection for England’s heritage - the Communities Secretary announcing new legal protections for cultural and historic heritage in England
  • the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission report - the Government has responded with:
    • proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework that will place more emphasis on beauty and placemaking
    • the creation of a draft National Model Design Code, which will provide a checklist of design principles for new developments
  • National Planning Policy Framework and National Model Design Code: Consultation - on draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework and the draft National Model Design Code

Policy officials attending:


Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons, and officials from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; the Committee on Climate Change; Defra; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport; the Department for Education; the Department for Infrastructure, NI; the Department for Transport; the Department of Health and Social Care; the Geospatial Commission; the Government Legal Department; the Health and Safety Executive; HM Revenue & Customs; the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise; the MHCLG; the Office for National Statistics; the Office of Government Property; the Office of Rail and Road; The Scottish Government; The Planning Inspectorate; and the Welsh Government.


This is a full-scale conference taking place online***


  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference



This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles