The Governments White Paper on Planning

The Government has recently decided on a fundamental overhaul of the planning system, launching a 3 month Public Consultation on 6 August, seeking comments on its outline proposals. Behind this is a desire to see 300,000 houses for purchase to be constructed annually (currently 241,000) with 1 million to be completed by the next general election. Few people with experience of the current system would deny that change is needed. However there is deep concern as to whether this is the right time and also the extent and nature of the proposed changes.

The present system for housing delivery is based on Local Plans which take many years to complete. The proposal is to streamline this process to a maximum of 30 months and use a “zonal system” to determine where development should or should not take place. It is implied there will be more meaningful public input at the Local Plan Stage but less opportunity to object to individual planning applications when they are lodged. There will also be a digitalisation of the planning process with information accessed on mobile devices rather than attached to lampposts and on display in libraries (for larger proposals).

Members of the Society met with our local MP Robbie Moore recently and the new planning proposals formed part of the discussion. He recognised the strength of Addingham Civic Society on planning / environmental issues and agreed that local input was fundamental both at Local Plan Stage and with Neighbourhood Plans which can play a key role locally. 

The Society is currently analysing the proposals and will be responding formally to the Consultation. We have gained a lot of knowledge and experience through input into our Bradford Local Plan and the more recent Neighbourhood Plan. We are well placed to make a constructive and informed response and will keep Members informed of progress and our general conclusions.

Update on Bradford Council’s Planning Policy

First some good news, the Council has formally adopted The Homes and Neighbourhoods – A Guide to Designing in Bradford as a ‘Supplementary Planning Document (SPD)’, which developers and house builders need to take account of when submitting planning applications.

The Council’s purpose in developing the guide is to encourage a step change in the quality of housing in the district. It seeks to make developments green, safe and well connected with places for children to play and streets designed to limit traffic speeds and give priority to pedestrians and cyclists. It also encourages house builders towards low carbon development solutions. The guide is very detailed with practical examples of best practice around the country.

The Society’s Environment Group were pleased to see some of the comments that we and others made in the consultation on the draft Guide, taken on board. The sections on sustainable development were strengthened and the biodiversity guidance is very welcome. The SPD applies to small new developments as well as large, and to the renovation and re-use of existing buildings. Now we need developers to take heed!

You may recall that last September the Civic Society Planning Team and Environment Group also sent  comments to Bradford Council’s consultation on ‘preferred options’ for the partial review of the Core Strategy policies in the district-wide Local Plan. 

The full Statement of Consultation Report won’t be published before June, however, the latest edition of the Council’s planning policy newsletter gives a flavour of some of the key issues raised, most of which will come as no surprise:

  • Climate Change – the Core Strategy should set a clearer path for achieving a substantial reduction in carbon use.
  • Green Belt – comments were split between developers and site promoters seeking further Green Belt releases and strong community opposition to any change to the Green Belt.
  • Employment & Jobs – there needs to be a clearer narrative between job forecasts and housing growth, with economic forecasts variously considered too low or over ambitious.
  • Transport & Movement – more joined up thinking on growth, sustainability and climate change.
  • Housing – significant split in opinion between those supportive of a reduction in housing numbers and others seeking an uplift in housing numbers to support growth and the delivery of non-brownfield sites.
  • Environment – overall support for the requirement of biodiversity net gain in development and generally positive feedback in relation to the proposed new healthy places policy.
  • Holme Wood – a substantial number of comments against the proposed Holme Wood Sustainable Urban Extension within South East Bradford.  

The next stage of public consultation on the Local Plan will be on the Council’s ‘preferred options’ for the Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD). This plan will set out specific sites for housing, employment, local greenspace etc. Originally planned for January/February, this consultation was pushed back to June (and in current circumstances will almost certainly be pushed back further).

Bradford will consult on the Core Strategy Partial Review at the same time. The Council states that this will provide a clearer understanding of how updated strategic and key policies connect to allocations and preferred options for housing, employment and other uses.

Addingham Civic Society