New Planning Rules – a further threat to our green spaces and to local democracy

The Government is rushing through proposals to change the planning process. They say it will simplify the process, freeing up the ability to get houses built quicker. In fact, many experts believe that:

  • the public will have much less opportunity to scrutinise any plans
  • it does not address in any way the fact that there is existing planning permission for over one million houses to be built but which are not being delivered, as developers are waiting for more profitable times in which to build
  • the new laws will make the provision of affordable housing even more limited.

In summary, the key points are:

  • Local plans would be simplified and focus on identifying three categories of land – 
    • ‘growth areas’ that are ‘suitable for substantial development’
      • outline approval would be automatically granted for forms and types of development specified in the plan
    • ‘renewal areas’ that are ‘suitable for development’
      • Development in renewal areas would ‘cover existing built areas where smaller scale development is appropriate’ and could include the ‘gentle densification’ of residential areas, development in town centres, and small sites in and around villages.
    • ‘protected areas’. 
      • Protected areas, including green belt, conservation areas and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), would still be subject to ‘more stringent’ development.

If the development at Sharpness were to be considered under these proposals, it is highly likely it would be classified as a ‘growth area’ and therefore there would be a ‘statutory presumption in favour of development’.  As we are finding out, it is hard enough now making our legitimate concerns taken into account – under these changes, it would be almost impossible.

Full details are shown here – https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future

What you can do

If, like us, you are concerned by this affront to local democracy, you could do one or more of the following:

It is not just us that consider these plans an affront to local democracy. We are not experts, just local people wanting to have a say about what happens in our area. See below for what some experts have to say.

What others have to say

  • Royal Institute of British Architects

‘these shameful proposals do almost nothing to guarantee the delivery of affordable, well-designed and sustainable homes’ 

  • The Local Government Association

‘It is vital that (new homes) are delivered through a locally-led planning system with public participation at its heart which gives communities the power to ensure new developments are of a high standard, built in the right places, and include affordable homes. We also need to ensure that new homes are supported by new funding for community infrastructure such as schools, playgrounds and roads.

Nine in 10 applications are approved by councils with more than a million homes given planning permission over the last decade yet to be built.

Any reforms (must) protect the rights of communities to shape the areas they live in.’

  • The Town and Country Planning Association

As we confront the scale of the health, climate and housing crises, the TCPA is concerned that the Planning White Paper fails to lay the foundations for a democratic and effective planning system.

We agree with the government that planning is important and that the system is central to tackling important national issues including the need for genuinely affordable homes, combating climate change, improving biodiversity and levelling up the nation. We are also clear that poor quality outcomes from the planning system undermine people’s health, safety, wellbeing and life chances. 

While we recognise the government wants to move at speed, it is essential that we get these reforms right.

We are concerned that while there is positive language about design and empowerment in the White Paper, there is a disconnect between that and the specific proposals.

  • The Ramblers Association

‘The Ramblers has joined other environment and access charities in a warning that proposed reforms to speed up the planning process published by the government could put wildlife, heritage and green open spaces at risk, unless critical environmental rules are maintained and strengthened. 

The planning system is not the main cause of development delays or affordable housing shortfalls – 90% of applications are approved by local planning authorities, but developers often delay building.’

  • CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link

‘The scale of reform proposed by the Government could allow unrestrained development across great swathes of our landscape, unless it is properly balanced by site-specific, democratic and transparent protection for nature across the country.’ 

  • Friends of the Earth

‘These planning reforms are bad news for our communities, climate, and local democracy. A robust planning system is essential to deal with the housing, nature and climate crises we face, so we can emerge from the pandemic in a green and fairer way. Weakening the system will only benefit developers because it will mean building where developers can maximise their profit, rather than what communities need. These proposals are a developers charter that bypasses the democratic wishes of communities and threatens a wave of poorly-built, badly-sited developments.’ 

  • Royal Society for the  Protection of Birds

‘Nature is in free-fall and the planning system has a crucial role to play in reversing that. In a recent study, 81% of people in England agreed the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has shown the importance of protecting and restoring nature. It is therefore vital any reforms show how the planning system will protect nature and ensure its recovery.’ 

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