A Planning Update from Malcolm Keeble
12th November 2020
By the time you read this update the Society’s response to the Government’s White Paper “Planning for the Future” will be sitting in London, along with scores of others from small rural villages to large cities, professional bodies / institutions, politicians and interested individuals. You can read this by clicking on ‘Planning’ on the top menu bar. Unsurprisingly it has provoked a substantial response because of its stated aim of modernising and revamping the entire planning process which together with a number of revisions has been in place since 1947.
The White Paper with its political introductions runs to nearly 80 pages with a series of 25 questions. We have answered these questions together with an overall summary and these will be posted on our website in due course. I am very grateful to Alan Taylor, Keith Appleyard, Rick Battarbee and Jan Hindle who have put in a lot of effort and expertise to help draft a response.
The Government’s key aims are to speed up the planning process for producing Local Plans, reducing the process to a maximum of 30 months (currently averaging 7 years). It also wishes to accelerate the actual process for gaining planning consent. With these measures in place it hopes to see the number of commercial houses built increase from 245,000 per annum (pre Pandemic) to 300,000 per annum, with 1,000,000 new homes to be constructed by the end of this Parliament.
To achieve its goals the Government wants to reduce the volume of paperwork required for Local Plan preparation. The Society agrees but at the same time believes a 30 month time frame for the whole process is unrealistic. It also strongly disagrees with proposals to restrict public comment on planning to the formulation of Local Plans and exclude it at the detailed planning application stage. Furthermore the scope of Neighbourhood Plans would be reduced purely to participation in producing “Design Codes” for local housing development. There is a general feeling of centralising the control of planning and minimising community engagement. The Society also expressed the view that trying to solve housing provision using the private house building sector alone is unfair and discriminatory. A significant proportion of the population will never be able to afford to buy a house and there is a huge need for new homes for affordable renting. This has been historically provided by councils and housing associations and a vehicle needs to be found for this to happen again.