Council officers lambast government planning shake-up

Government proposals to shake-up the planning system will “undermine community trust” and unfairly place the blame on local planning authorities, officers have said.

A report before the Central Lincolnshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee says the radical changes included “plenty of damning statements about the planning system without looking at the reasons for the highlighted problems.”

The proposals, unveiled last month, would divide land into growth, renewal or protection areas and pre-approved design codes would give an automatic green light to certain applications.

The report next Monday said a lot of statements were “readily disputed by available evidence”.

Officers said the planning system was “at the heart of democratic local decision-making”.

“A centralised and largely unaccountable process based on inflexible codes and standards will undermine the ability of communities to have their say on the future of their own environment,” they said.

The officers also disputed claims the planning system did not lead to enough homes being built.

“As with numerous recent government announcements and policy changes, the ‘blame’ for past perceived failures in the system is largely placed, unfairly, on Local Planning Authorities (LPAs).

“The ‘sticks’ proposed are again one-sided against LPAs – ‘sanctions’ and ‘fees’ are all aimed at LPAs if they do not meet the requirements of the new system, with very little emphasis placed on penalising poor performing or non-delivering developers.”

The officers pointed to data that showed that in the year to June 2019, 377,000 residential planning consents were granted in England, but only 214,000 homes were built last year – 163,000 short.

“Part of the problem is that many of the permissions are held by land owners or land agents, not builders, and they are not incentivised to see them developed, only to sell them on at a profit with the permission – at the expense of funding for much needed infrastructure,” they said.

When the proposals were announced, they prompted criticism from housing charities, planning officers and architects who warned it could lead to substandard housing and would not guarantee homes would be affordable.

Housing minister Robert Jenrick, however, said: “We will cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before.

“Planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process.

“As we face the economic effects of the pandemic, now is the time for decisive action and a clear plan for jobs and growth.”

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