Queen’s speech: planning reforms denounced as ‘complete disaster’

From Local Government Chronice

Planning reforms included in today’s Queen’s speech have been denounced as a “complete disaster in the making” that will lead to “more slum housing built to maximise profits” by one of the country’s leading sector bodies.

The government today said a planning bill will create a “simpler, faster and more modern planning system”, that can ensure “homes and infrastructure can be delivered more quickly across England”.

But London Councils issued a statement from their executive member for housing and planning Darren Rodwell (Lab) calling the planning overhaul “a complete disaster in the making”.“We’re desperate for more affordable housing in the capital – but these reforms risk making the situation worse,” he said.

The government says it will replace the ways developers fund affordable housing and infrastructure – such as the community infrastructure levy – “with a new, more predictable and more transparent levy”.

But London Councils warns this would leave councils with “very few mechanisms for ensuring affordable housing targets are met”.

The planning white paper last year proposed creating three different zones with different purposes and degrees of development; “growth”, “renewal” or “protection”. However, The Times today reported that zones will be marked for growth or protection, with ministers “undecided on adding a third category for regeneration”.

London Councils says that moving to a zonal system would mean “fewer opportunities for local accountability and oversight”, making it “harder for councils to make sure the right sort of homes are built to the right standard in the right places”.

The body is also protesting that boroughs are not being given “the ability to force developers to build out the planning permissions they have been granted”, thereby allowing housebuilding to stall. It says there are more than 300,000 new homes in the capital’s “development pipeline”.

Cllr Rodwell said: “Councils play a crucial role in the planning system, upholding quality standards and ensuring new development includes affordable housing for our communities. With around 50,000 planning applications granted by London boroughs each year, we’re doing our best to facilitate the new housing the capital needs.

“Our concern is that ripping up planning regulations will only lead to more slum housing built to maximise profits rather than address Londoners’ needs. There’s so much more the government should be doing to invest in affordable housing and to support local councils’ housebuilding ambitions.”

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGIU, also questioned the planning proposals, saying: “Everyone agrees that we need to build many, many more houses in this country. It’s less clear that planning is what is preventing us from doing so. These proposals leave local government with the political liability on planning whilst depriving them, and by extension the communities they represent, of the powers to manage it effectively.”

Dr Carr-West asked: “Are major planning changes on permitted development totally compatible with rejuvenating town centres?”

Russell Gardner, EY’s UK & Ireland Head of Real Estate, said the planning bill would be “the biggest shake–up to planning rules in a generation”.

He said that while the measures may reduce “the impact of nimbyism” they could also “draw concern over the loss of local democratic process”, warning that “a careful balance will need to be struck”.

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