Local councils, WLBC included, are to lose their powers to block individual housing developments under planning reforms to be unveiled this week. Ministers will announce what they describe as a planning revolution that will force authorities to allocate land for developments that will then not have to go through the full planning process.
Critics said yesterday that the move would reduce democratic accountability and lead to poor-quality new houses being built in areas without adequate public services.
CPRE, the countryside charity, said it would lead to a “gross oversimplification of the planning system” and was not the answer to the shortage of high-quality housing.
The Local Government Association, which represents councils, said it would result in poorer-quality housing and take away the protection of residents to shape the area in which they lived. The government insisted that the new system would not only speed up house building but ensure those developments happened in the right areas.
Ministers said they would create new “design standards” to ensure that properties which get the go-ahead in this way are in keeping with the style of existing properties. They will also introduce a system of developer contributions to fund local infrastructure.
On Times Radio yesterday Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, insisted that councils would still have a say in where developments took place. He said the measures would end the problem of housing being turned down by planning committees even when it was in areas designated for development in local plans. “It will be a system which places a demand on local areas to build the homes that they need. It will be much simpler and faster, and enable people to get on and build”.
Under a new zoning system for planning approvals, all land will be designated into three categories: for renewal, for growth and for protection. In the first two categories there will be a new legal “permission in principle” approach for new buildings. Areas of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt will come under the protection category where most new buildings will be automatically banned. [We wish!]
The reforms will be published this week in a paper entitled Planning for the Future. It will also outline plans to use money from developers to give local people discounts of up to one third off the cost of a house.
The reforms • All land in local authority areas to be designated as either for renewal, development or protection. • Developers wishing to build on land designated for renewal or development will no longer have to go through full planning procedures. • Areas of outstanding beauty and green belt designated for protection. • Standards to ensure properties match the style of existing homes. • New system of developer contributions to local infrastructure.
Can you imagine the big land developers, already sitting on huge land banks, suddenly contributing to the provision of modern drains and sewers? No, nor me!