Raising the alarm on government planning proposals
The PM has declared a bid to force house-building at the greatest rate since the war, with some devastating effects on our communities and on our environment and nature.
- Minister Robert Jenrick has now commissioned work to change planning to make it easier for developers to gain permission, blaming the planning system for delays.
- But Planning is not the barrier. Local Planning Authorities are already required to give permission for 5 years’ worth of development land. That land that is there today, waiting to be built on.
- Developers keep house prices up by holding onto land in “land-banking”. They use it as a commodity to increase borrowing and also increase the price of a new home. That makes it harder for local people and first-time buyers to afford.
- There are problems with the current system, but these proposals only make it worse. These proposals will not increase the numbers of new houses being built but will only lead to more speculative and inappropriate development in our communities.
- This proposal for change takes power away from local decision-making, centralising it into a national set of rules against which applications are compared, with little attention to the needs of local people.
- The huge pressure to get large numbers of houses built, means that councils can hardly say “no”, even to inappropriate and speculative development that contributes nothing to local services and infrastructure. These proposals tackle none of the key problems and on this scale, is counter to the work on tackling climate change.
- Scrap the housing targets and enable homes to be planned and built over a longer period, in a way that improves quality of life for people living nearby.
- Any uplift in land value because of the council’s decision, should go to the Council to provide the necessary services and facilities. That leaves developers to make money through building homes. It also does away with land-banking and keeps prices down. It happens in other countries.
Making the case
The proposed changes to planning are extremely dangerous and likely to be damaging to our communities and our planet. The conservative proposal sweeps away local planning as we know it.
Set alongside pressure to “build, build, build” at a greater rate than ever before, taking control of applications away from local people and into central government is very worrying.
Not proposed for change, is the current “push” for greater housing supply at the expense of everything else, including design quality. Councils will clearly struggle to refuse applications on design quality when they are required to get the numbers built. We need to lower those unrealistic targets to build, targets that are impossible to support with local jobs, services and facilities, leading to damaged communities and polluting, congested roads.
Like the Prime Minister says about his own negotiations, planners must also be able to say “no”. Planning does not stop at the end of this government’s term, building good communities takes time. It cannot be the “quick fix” for the economy that the government appears to envisage, unless we accept serious damage to our communities.
The government’s squeeze on local councils now extends to centralising planning in a framework, where local decision-making could become a thing of the past and leave local residents without a proper voice on applications.
Currently our councils write local plans which are a set of rules against which applications are compared. The proposal is to centralise that and for permissions to be given nationally, based on a computer tickbox process and without local engagement.
This allows central government not to just over-ride local permissions on applications, but to bypass it altogether.
Robert Jenrick previously over-rode the local authority and his Inspectorate to give permission for many more dwellings to a developer party donor. Then it had to be rescinded. Now he wants to change the rules.
Echoing the Prime Minister’s call for “Build, Build, Build”, land is divided into “growth”, “renewal” and “protection”, which is also open to applications in the normal way. The high build rates are not affordable and not compatible with our requirements to reduce our impact on the environment.
A world class public engagement should be happening already on the local Plan, but asking people to make decisions years ahead of any applications, as yet undreamt, simply doesn’t work, which is why current engagement with strategic planning is so low.
The minister says planning is “slow and outdated” with “red tape”, because big and complicated applications have to provide information about their impact on the environment, on local people, on highways – the things councillors and residents care about. Local people then have information and two or three weeks to speak up, to point out impacts that might otherwise be missed. Local decision-makers are then properly informed. Applications can be rejected or improved with conditions applied to mitigate the problems.
Is that really something we want to do away with? The so-called “outdated, red tape” being cut here is our informed democratic voice.
Around 90 per cent of applications are assessed quickly and passed without even going to committee. Small, straight-forward developments get passed very quickly, within a month. Larger developments of perhaps 1,500 houses may take many years to sell and build. Yet the whole planning process takes a maximum of just eight or 13 weeks depending on the size of the application, a relatively quick part of the whole process.
The myth that planning is holding up development is absurd. Permissions for a million homes over the past decade have not been built. Worse, the types of housing that are built, do not match the needs of local people, still leaving some people homeless or in accommodation they cannot afford.
Councils need freedoms to once again build affordable homes to rent, set their own discounts for resale, and finance to provide essential support services.
The planning system is about local, democratic decision-making and we cannot afford to allow this to slip away further into Whitehall.
Please write to your MP and object to the government’s proposed changes to the planning laws. England already has one of the most centralised decision-making systems in the western world. Let’s get back to local decision-making where local people have a proper say on what goes on in their area.
Leader of the Lincolnshire Independents Councillor Marianne Overton MBE
The Lincolnshire Independents are Independents in Lincolnshire with a network of support.
Cllr Marianne Overton Leader text/phone 07920 235 364 firstname.lastname@example.org Chairman Cllr Nick Byatt, Chairman 07875120904 email@example.com
The NK Independents are Lincolnshire Independents and Independents on North Kesteven District Council.
Deputy Leader, Cllr Peter Lundgren firstname.lastname@example.org 07751 112303
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