Latest News Thu, Jun 10, 2021 8:55 AM
An influential committee of MPs has raised concerns about the lack of detail in respect of the Government’s proposed reforms to the planning system, which has made it very difficult to assess the possible practical implications of many of the reforms.
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee believes the Government should consult on the details of proposed reforms to prevent unintended consequences and harms resulting from them.
Given the complexity of the issues, and the possibility that its contents will differ from the proposals contained in the White Paper, the Planning Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech should be brought forward in a draft form, and be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny.
It says the lack of details about the three areas approach has made it difficult to assess how it would function. Evidence has suggested there are problems with the three areas proposal. These have included its potential unsuitability in urban areas; doubts over whether Local Plans will have the level of detail for developers to know whether their proposals will qualify for permission in principle and avoid using planning permission procedures; the uncertainty over the purposes of renewal areas; and the level of protection to be afforded in protected areas.
Overall, the committee states it is “unpersuaded the Government’s zoning-based approach will produce a quicker, cheaper, and democratic planning system”.
It has set out a wide-ranging series of recommendations and proposals and is urging the Government to rethink its current course of action and listen more carefully to stakeholders regarding the future of the planning process.
The MPs conclude that: “There is a need for additional resources for planning departments, and specialist skills. The pressures on the system will only increase if the government proceeds with its reforms, including the thirty-month timeframe for local plans, at the same time as local planning authorities are also operating the current system.
“The Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government should now seek to obtain a Treasury commitment for an additional £500m over four years for local planning authorities. Providing this certainty of funding should precede the introduction of the Planning Bill.”
Cllr David Renard, Local Government Association planning spokesperson, said: “Councils want to work with government on developing the detail of its Planning Bill and to go further and faster to tackle our housing crisis.
“With more than 1.1 million homes given planning permission over the past decade yet to be built and councils approving 9 in 10 planning applications, it is clear that the planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding and that it is the housing delivery system which is in need of reform.
“There are also more than a million more homes on land earmarked in local plans for development by councils that are yet to be brought forward by developers for planning permission.
“It is therefore good the Committee backs our call for councils to be able to levy full council tax on incomplete properties, as an incentive to get developers building more quickly.
“A local, democratically-led planning system remains critical so local communities can continue to have their say on developments, ensure the right homes are built in the right places and shape the area they live in.”
RIBA President, Alan Jones said the report echoed many of architecture’s own concerns and expressed his disappointment that an extract from RIBA’s evidence about aesthetics had been taken “somewhat out of context”.
“We have been clear, including in our response to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation that current proposals lack critical detail about how they would work in practice, focusing too much on external visual appearance, at the expense of high-quality, safe, accessible and sustainable design,” he added.
“We urgently require further detail from the Government on the replacement for Section 106 Agreements, the process for allocating land for new uses, and the proposed formula to set housing delivery targets.
“It is only by considering such details that the Government will truly demonstrate their commitment to improving the quality of housing and all areas of the built environment for future generations.”
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said it was no surprise the Committee of MPs is ‘unpersuaded’ by the government’s reckless and untested changes to the planning system.
“MPs, the public and civil society have been urging Ministers to radically rethink the proposals set out in the Planning White Paper, so that we can create the low carbon, well designed homes, green spaces and places of the future,” he continued.
“Following evidence from CPRE and many more besides, it’s hugely encouraging to see the Committee’s focus on protecting the right of local people to engage in all aspects of planning. Under the government’s current proposals, we could see democratic input halved and local people stripped of the right to have a say on individual developments. We agree that local authorities must also be granted the powers and backing of central government to get sites with planning permission built out far more quickly.
“But there also needs to be a much better mix of new homes built in rural areas. The Committee’s call for affordable housing planning agreements to be kept could not be more timely. If these are lost, we fear the already paltry supply of much needed new social rented homes will dry up completely in many rural areas.
“As the chorus of opposition continues to grow, we’re calling on the government to radically rethink its changes to the planning system. What we need is clear targets in planning for tackling the climate and nature emergencies and enhancing and protecting our countryside, rather than a narrow obsession with building more and more housing, regardless of whether that housing meets local needs. By encouraging local people to take part in planning, holding developers to account and driving up build out rates, we can begin to tackle the housing crisis head on.”
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