Rewrite 'yes to development' planning change, say MPs

 
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MPs are calling on ministers to rewrite a key part of its controversial changes to planning rules in England, removing the default "yes" to development.

Ministers say a simplified planning system is needed to boost growth and encourage sustainable development.

But the Commons communities committee said in a report that the government had slimmed down guidance so much it was now often "unhelpfully vague".

Planning Minister Greg Clark says the MPs support the key changes proposed.

At the heart of the government's planning reforms is a "presumption in favour of sustainable development" which ministers say will boost house building and other economic growth while not harming communities, the environment or the countryside.

Ministers have cut more than 1,000 pages of regulations down to just 52 to overcome planning delays which they claim cost the economy £3bn a year.

But their draft plans provoked angry protests from groups including the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, who are concerned that they could lead to a return to urban sprawl and damaging development.

'Confusion'

Now the Commons communities and local government committee has warned that the changes risk becoming "unbalanced" and favouring "unsustainable development".

The MPs highlight the default "yes" in the reforms that gives the go-ahead to development unless the adverse effects "significantly and demonstrably" outweigh the benefits.

"This carries the risk of the planning system being used to implement poorly planned, unsustainable development", the report says.

"The 'default yes' to development and the phrase 'significantly and demonstrably' should be removed from the text."

The MPs welcome a government commitment to take the consultation process seriously and to reinstate a policy to build on brown field sites first.

But the committee's Labour chairman Clive Betts said changes are needed to the so-called National Planning Policy Framework.

"The way the framework is drafted currently gives the impression that greater emphasis should be given in planning decisions to economic growth," he said.

"This undermines the equally important environmental and social elements of the planning system."

The report also warns there is a danger that, far from speeding up the planning process, in the short term the changes would slow it down by introducing "confusion" where previously there was detailed guidance - and warns that "planning by appeal" could be the outcome.

The MPs said ministers had gone too far in cutting back existing planning guidance.

"Critical wording has been lost and what remains is often unhelpfully vague," the report said.

Ministers should produce "a tighter, clearer document, and should not make a fetish of how many pages it is".

The committee also recommends that once the changes are finalised all planning advice is reviewed - item by item - "lest councils spend valuable time reinventing numerous wheels".

Housing shortage

But John Stewart from the Home Builders' Federation says the planning system must change.

"For the last 20 years environmental concerns have been dominant and as a consequence we have a housing shortage," he told the BBC.

"There are roughly a million homes over the last 20 years that should have been built which haven't been.

Start Quote

They say that the core principle, the presumption in favour of sustainable development in their words should be a 'golden thread' running through the planning system”

End Quote Greg Clark Planning minister

"And looking forward we are building about 100,000 homes a year and we should be building well over 250,000, so we have a very serious housing crisis."

Campaigners against the planning overhaul have welcomed the MPs' report.

Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust, said the committee's report provided "irresistible pressure" on ministers to improve their plans.

"Along with nearly 230,000 people who signed our petition against the changes, the select committee has identified the clear changes that need to be made to the draft national planning policy framework so that it delivers a planning system that balances social and environmental needs with those of the economy," she said.

But Minister Mr Clark said the MPs support the key thrust of the government's plans.

"They say that the core principle, the presumption in favour of sustainable development in their words should be a 'golden thread' running through the planning system.

"What they felt is ... there are some ambiguities and have suggested some changes. I have invited them to advise me and so of course I'm going to take their advice very seriously."

The shadow local government secretary Hilary Benn said the report was a "pretty damning criticism" of the government's proposals.

"They are going to have to redraft their plans," he said.

"Local councils have got to be given the opportunity to draw up their new development plans in the light of what the government is proposing and I strongly support what the committee has said about there being a reasonable interval to allow councils to do that so they are not left at the mercy of these new proposals."

 

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 426.

    There is no housing shortage in the UK. Mortgages have never been cheaper in living memory. There are several large houses for sale in my area, close to the A1 with good rail links. Working single people who want to 'escape' from their parents need to think differently and buy a large house together with their working friends after seeking legal advice.

    Many families do this over and over again

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 425.

    Tories seem entirely the wrong people to tackle housing?

    Eton and Westminster men know nothing about life outside of their gated compounds.

    Nannied and cosseted, everything private, they have had no contact with normal human beings!! George and Dave (Mr Fawlty and Manuel) look utterly baffled at the best of times. Pink gin and snuff anyone??

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 424.

    #410
    once you start artificilaly controlling the return it gets out of sync with other forms of investments so no one will invest in or build for rental.
    ---
    So the increase in house prices wasn't artificial - perhaps it was based on the utilisation of better quality materials and spacious gardens that aren't overlooked on seven "sides"?
    Are you oblivious to what's happened or are you a landlord?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 423.

    "413.goonerforlife

    @405 &412 - why not have price controlls on everything and the state can run our lives for us - just one point - who is going to build houses or make/sell anything here if prices are controlled when they can sell or build overseas."

    Until 'big bang', we always had very effective price controls for first time buyers, 2.5 x joint income. Developers built accordingly.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 422.

    Making a profit is not the be all & end all in every area of our lives. Our priorities have been skewed to the point that making a profit seems to be more important than having a balanced society which works for the benefit of the majority of people.

    Remember when you could rent a council house with a decent garden which was superior quality to the poor quality overpriced hutches now on offer.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 421.

    413.goonerforlife
    "you seem to think businesses of any kind exist for the fun of it - nice idea but in a global market hopelessly outdated"
    You think having your life dictated by corporations interested solely in greed is any different? That's what we're headed to now, unless you can suggest an alternative that would actually -work-, since building more houses clearly doesn't

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 420.

    Blaming the planning sytem for the economy is like blaming the dog for not turning the oven on i.e nonsensical. The system didn't seem to prevent growth from 1990-2007 and noone was worried then. We all know why we're in this economic mess. The tories tried to meddle with a system they don't understand and have suddenly realised that the people that want controls most are those that vote for them!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 419.

    There is no housing shortage, just some reorganisation required. A default 'Yes' is appalling. We don't need any more building.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 418.

    @413.goonerforlife

    Let them go overseas and see if they can make as much profit as they have here. I bet they can't!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 417.

    The construction industry will lobby as hard as it can to have building regulations relaxed, but has no interest in reducing property prices or tackling the alleged housing shortage. It will continue to provide a trickle of new properties in the South East, as this is where it can make most profit.
    A policy to create jobs in regions other than the South East is the best long term solution.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 416.

    The default "yes" bit is the most worrying, since it will inevitably mean the developer with the money and resources will be able to ride rough shod over objectors who most likely will be unable to afford to gather equal resources.

    In other words, the money will win, which appears to be the central theme to the current governments policies.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 415.

    Parking housing estates in the countryside is obviously a bad idea!

    Everyone will need a car, there being no public transport and getting to and from work will be usual tiring expense

    Is this another 'Move to Surrey Free from Worry' project as in the 1930's. Croydon and similar appeared then

    Look in the Royal Docks if you want a nice flat. Lots of affordable shared purchase shemes there?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 414.

    Lots of comments about building affordable homes, but what is and what defines an affordable home because I don't know?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 413.

    @405 &412 - why not have price controlls on everything and the state can run our lives for us - just one point - who is going to build houses or make/sell anything here if prices are controlled when they can sell or build overseas. you seem to think businesses of any kind exist for the fun of it - nice idea but in a global market hopelessly outdated - bit like communism around the world!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 412.

    #405
    Agreed. Mrs Thatcher released a number of financial WMD, deregulation of banks was just one.....given the dismal prospects for most non professionals a return to proper social is a must and should curb the excesses of the bandit landlords who have squeezed tax payers for decades.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 411.

    The housing shortage was a myth perpetuated by vested interests. This UKs steady population of 56mill since 1950 suddenly jumped to 62 since 97 and counting, 80% in the southeast. Of course that going to create a southeast housing shortage. Housebuilders are sitting on millions of landbanked homes with permission, which are not going to be built until buyers can get a mortgage.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 410.

    people who say private rent needs to be controlled dont understand the reality. A property is an investment with a return like any other - once you start artificilaly controlling the return it gets out of sync with other forms of investments so no one will invest in or build for rental. Part of the problem is caused by overseas owners and demand for second homes inflating prices down the ladder

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 409.

    I've played TONNES of resource management games, including Monopoly.

    These people are clearly not adept enough. Sack them and give me their jobs.

    KTHXBAI!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 408.

    395.locust
    8 Minutes ago
    379 by june

    I'll try again in little words. I was not the client. I was the builder! (or rather my husband was).

    Got it now?

    I've never crammed anyone in anywhere. Even my dogs have spacious baskets!

    Nasty man. Not my fault it's Christmas and the weather is awful and you've no mates!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 407.

    Not had a post removed before. Fair enough Mods. It would appear my post was removed because it mentioned supermarket land banks within and just outside urban areas. Dare I say too much power is held by supermarkets on everyone in Britain - whether farmer, small business or local councils given incentives for permission?

    Yes, we all shop at supermarkets - because parking is free. Councils charge

 

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