Concerns raised about proposed planning overhaul

Published Friday, 30 October 2020

Councillors and planners have raised concerns about sweeping Government proposals to overhaul the planning system.

The Borough Council was asked to respond to a consultation on the government white paper, ‘Planning for the Future’, which proposes the largest reforms to the planning system since 1947 with changes it says will ‘streamline and modernise’ the planning process and remove perceived barriers in order to boost the supply of new housing. 

The council has responded in detail to the consultation, stating that while it wishes to work with government to find ways to improve the planning system, it believes many of the aims of the government are already being met, or have the potential to be met by the current system and that now is not the time for a radical overhaul.

In particular the council’s response expresses its concerns that the consequences of the proposals may be many more new houses in the borough; less public input into planning applications; less infrastructure investment and fewer affordable homes.

While the proposals state they aim to give communities and neighbourhoods a more meaningful voice in the future of their area, the council is concerned that the proposals will actually result in a significant transfer of decision making and power from local government to central government.  

Under the white paper, initiatives include quicker development and creating ‘zones’, categorising land into growth, renewal or protection, a system which the council points out is an untried, untested system different to that used elsewhere in the world which could reduce the council’s ability to decide what development goes where. Any areas that are labelled as growth are expected to have outline planning permission in place that would allow developers to create housing without councils debating the principle of the scheme.  

It is also proposed that central government will decide how many new homes are required in each council area and local councils will be asked to plan for the new homes, with no opportunity for local authorities and residents to influence how many new homes are built in their area.

Councillor David Bill, Executive Member for Planning said: “There is a clear obligation on all of us to ensure that there is an adequate supply of housing and employment sites to meet the growing needs of the people we represent and in particular the aspirations of people to live in their own homes. Unfortunately, these government proposals will limit the ability of local councils like us to influence local development and meet these expectations. The proposed changes are considerable and if the reforms are implemented as outlined, they would have significant implications for all local planning authorities. We hope that the Government will heed our concerns and recognise the strength of opposition to these proposals.”

View the full council response to the planning for the future white paper consultation (PDF)