‘Making a bonfire of planning laws leaves communities with no say’ – Stevenage council leader

PUBLISHED: 12:49 07 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:04 07 August 2020

The housing minister unveiled the landmark planning reforms on August 6. Picture: MHCLG

The housing minister unveiled the landmark planning reforms on August 6. Picture: MHCLG

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This week’s landmark white paper outlining an unprecedented overhaul to the planning system in England has been met with a lukewarm reaction from council leaders.

Yesterday (August 6), housing minister Robert Jenrick unveiled a new ‘rules-based’ planning system which will completely overhaul the existing structure, designed to remove unnecessary “red tape and bureaucracy.”

Council leaders across the country have expressed deep caution, however, amid fears the reforms may herald a significant move away from local decision-making and council-led democracy.

Cllr Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council said: “I am deeply concerned that the government’s proposals will turn the planning system into a developers’ charter, limiting local people’s voice on planning matters and eroding local democracy.

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“What we need is high quality local developments that improve areas for residents and funding that allows councils to get on with the job of building more affordable homes.”

READ MORE: Landmark overhaul of planning system aims to ‘cut red tape’

Cllr Taylor also asserted that it is not councils who have put ‘red tape and bureaucracy’ into the planning system, as the government has inferred.

“Across the country, nine out of ten applications are approved well within the government target guidelines. Over one million homes have planning permission but have not been built by developers, some of them holding on to land while values increase – at a time when our country needs to tackle the housing crisis.

“In Stevenage, we’ve seen the effect of centralised bureaucracy, with the government delaying our Local Plan for 497 days through a holding direction.”

Cllr Taylor added: “These changes will bring less local decision making. The government wants to change how developers contribute to infrastructure and services, and I fear that this could mean less funding being available for local communities to fund vital services.

“We could make improvements to the planning system, but making a bonfire of planning laws leaves local communities with no say. I hope the government will think again and work with local councils to deliver the powers and vital investment needed to deliver the affordable homes we need.”


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