I am concerned that the measures outlined in the Government’s White Paper on planning pose a threat to our green spaces, remove important safeguards in the planning system, and will allow large developers to ignore quality, affordability and sustainability.
The Government said its White Paper on planning reforms aims to simplify and accelerate the planning process, which really means vicious deregulation and disregarding residents’ views.
Critics have warned that a move to lighter regulation could lead to the development of the next generation of slum housing. The Royal Institute of British Architects said the measures will do “almost nothing to guarantee the delivery of affordable, well-designed and sustainable homes.” Concerns have also been raised by the Local Government Association (LGA) regarding proposals for a new formula for calculating local housing requirements, which it said will not accurately reflect housing need.
I am concerned that the Government’s proposals amount to a “Developer’s Charter” that will remove powers from communities and hand them to Whitehall-appointed boards of developers. We‘ve seen this approach before with fracking sites and the Hulton Park development – despite universal opposition from local residents, their concerns were ignored, and these developments were waved through by a central Government which prioritises the wealth and wellbeing of companies over its own citizens.
On sustainability and the environment, I believe the White Paper does little to address the urgent challenge of climate change, with no new proposals to address energy efficiency or climate goals more widely. Concerns have also been raised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England about the impact of these reforms on access to green spaces. It is not clear how the Government can reconcile its proposals in the planning White Paper with its existing commitments to protect and enhance our natural, built and historic environment.
A further proposal to increase the number of developers exempted from paying fees as a condition for receiving planning permission could also lead to a huge loss of affordable housing and local infrastructure such as schools, GP surgeries and transport.
Instead of side-lining local councils and communities – which are best placed to make decisions about planning in their areas – I believe the Government should instead focus on building the high-quality, genuinely affordable and environmentally sustainable housing that this country needs. We need to build a new generation of social housing.
An online consultation on the Government’s White Paper is accepting responses until 29 October 2020: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future
Please take part in the consultation and, hopefully, if there is a big enough backlash, Ministers will reconsider their proposals and ensure that communities are at the heart of the planning process.
If not, then I can assure you that I will be opposing the harmful measures laid-out in this White Paper when it enters Parliament. I will always prioritise the needs of the residents over the desires of the development companies.