On 19th October LMPC held an Extraordinary Meeting to agree their response to the Government’s latest proposals to reform the Planning system. the agreed response is as follows:
Pillar One (Planning for Development)
Q1. What three words do you associate most with the planning system in England?
Property Developers First
Q2. Do you get involved with planning decisions in your local area (if not why not)?
Yes, the Council does. However, the apparent disregard of this Council’s input into the process and efforts to make the local voice heard is a deterrent to future engagement.
Q3. Our proposals will make it much easier to access plans and contribute your views to planning decisions. How would you like to find out about plans and planning proposals in the future?
All, to include Lamp posts, libraries
Q4. What are your top three priorities for planning in your local area?
The environment, biodiversity and action on climate change, + minimising impact of traffic / affordable housing for local people / Protection of existing heritage buildings, AONBs and SSIs.
Proposal 1: The role of land use plans should be simplified. We propose that Local Plans should identify three types of land – Growth areas suitable for substantial development, Renewal areas suitable for development, and areas that are Protected.
Q5. Do you agree that Local Plans should be simplified in line with our proposals?
No – The approach is too ‘broad brush’ and doesn’t take into account the particular needs of particular areas.
Proposal 2: Development management policies established at national scale and an altered role for Local Plans.
Q6. Do you agree with our proposals for streamlining the development management content of Local Plans, and setting out general development management policies nationally?
No. This reduces local involvement and ignores local knowledge of the area; it is therefore even less democratic and participative than the present system.
Proposal 3: Local Plans should be subject to a single statutory “sustainable development” test, replacing the existing tests of soundness.
Q7(a). Do you agree with our proposals to replace existing legal and policy tests for Local Plans with a consolidated test of “sustainable development”, which would include consideration of environmental impact?
Not sure. Officers’ understanding and interpretation of what constitutes ‘sustainable development’ is often based on an imperfect understanding of the particular context of the development. How can we be sure that Planning consideration of eg. environmental impact would be in agreement with ours ?
Q7(b). How could strategic, cross-boundary issues be best planned for in the absence of a formal Duty to Cooperate?
This should be for the neighbouring area/council to decide.
Proposal 4: A standard method for establishing housing requirement figures which ensures enough land is released in the areas where affordability is worst, to stop land supply being a barrier to enough homes being built. The housing requirement would factor in land constraints and opportunities to more effectively use land, including through densification where appropriate, to ensure that the land is identified in the most appropriate areas and housing targets are met.
Q8(a). Do you agree that a standard method for establishing housing requirements (that takes into account constraints) should be introduced?
No. One size does not fit all. In areas of eg AONB, land for building is at a premium and too much building can spoil the character of the area. The proposal fails to differentiate between overall demand and the need for primary residences; building a house doesn’t necessarily house anyone. In order to ensure that scarce land resources are used to provide affordable housing where it is required, planning policy should focus on the provision of housing for local need rather than investment. Building more houses in areas where demand for second homes is already high does little to address true residential need, unless such new housing is only made available to locals (a Second Homes Policy).
Q8(b). Do you agree that affordability and the extent of existing urban areas are appropriate indicators of the quantity of development to be accommodated?
No. Certainly not. See above.
Proposal 5: Areas identified as Growth areas (suitable for substantial development) would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development, while automatic approvals would also be available for pre-established development types in other areas suitable for building
Q9(a). Do you agree that there should be automatic outline permission for areas for substantial development (Growth areas) with faster routes for detailed consent?
No. Local views and local housing needs must still be taken into account.
Q9(b). Do you agree with our proposals above for the consent arrangements for Renewal and Protected areas?
No. As NPPF/Local Guidelines are summarily ignored by developers/planning officers, we have no confidence that the new proposals will offer any improvement.
Q9(c). Do you think there is a case for allowing new settlements to be brought forward under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime?
Yes. In many cases, new villages with fully supporting infrastructure make more sense than trying to adapt current overstretched settlements.
Proposal 6: Decision-making should be faster and more certain, with firm deadlines, and make greater use of digital technology
Q10. Do you agree with our proposals to make decision-making faster and more certain?
No. This approach would not be inclusive, and would encourage less meaningful engagement with local people and Town and Parish Councils. Less tech-savvy residents would be at a disadvantage in terms of making a speedy response to an application. The proposal ignores the relative complexity of some applications. It may be an easy way to make quick decisions to meet targets, but does not serve the best interests of the communities concerned. Furthermore, T&PCs and local people have no right of appeal against a decision; they should have.
Proposal 7: Local Plans should be visual and map-based, standardised, based on the latest digital technology, and supported by a new template.
Q11. Do you agree with our proposals for accessible, web-based Local Plans?
Not sure. Traditional non-digital plans still have a role at local level, especially for those, such as the elderly, who may not be tech-savvy.
Proposal 8: Local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate will be required through legislation to meet a statutory timetable for key stages of the process, and we will consider what sanctions there would be for those who fail to do so
Q12. Do you agree with our proposals for a 30 month statutory timescale for the production of Local Plans?
No. Arbitrary timescales, which take no regard of the local context of Local Plans, will lead to flawed plans and over-stressed staff.
Proposal 9: Neighbourhood Plans should be retained as an important means of community input, and we will support communities to make better use of digital tools
Q13(a). Do you agree that Neighbourhood Plans should be retained in the reformed planning system?
Yes, if the requirements/proposals of the local communities concerned are fully addressed in the development plans. However, Neighbourhood Plans are not just about design of buildings, but include ‘where’, density, type etc. We (T&PCs) need to have confidence that our Neighbourhood Plans have a real role in planning.
Q13(b). How can the neighbourhood planning process be developed to meet our objectives, such as in the use of digital tools and reflecting community preferences about design?
T&PCs should have stronger, statutory rights to have their Neighbourhood Plans respected and adhered to, including Right of Appeal against development plans which go against them. Any use of digital co-creation tools to create Neighbourhood Plans must not be structured so as to pre-determine content, and such systems must be easily accessible to the layman.
Proposal 10: A stronger emphasis on build out through planning
Q14. Do you agree there should be a stronger emphasis on the build out of developments? And if so, what further measures would you support?
No. No development should be allowed to be increased easily as areas change rapidly and their needs must be constantly assessed to ensure that any build out is still relevant. It should be reviewed at all stages
Pillar Two (Planning for beautiful and sustainable places)
Q15. What do you think about the design of new development that has happened recently in your area?
Insufficient effort has been made (often on the grounds of ‘too expensive’) to design/build buildings which reference the vernacular style and materials of our local area; this has resulted in many ugly designs.
Q16. Sustainability is at the heart of our proposals. What is your priority for sustainability in your area?
These are our priorities for sustainability:
Energy efficiency should be planned into in all new buildings.
Developments which promote biodiversity through site layouts (eg Trees etc)
Community-rich infrastructure within walking/cycling distance where possible (shops, doctor’s surgeries etc) more cycle tracks, speed limits and pedestrian areas.
Planning for new houses which are primary residence ONLY, to maintain the ongoing life of the village.
Proposal 11: To make design expectations more visual and predictable, we will
expect design guidance and codes to be prepared locally with community involvement, and ensure that codes are more binding on decisions about development.
Q17. Do you agree with our proposals for improving the production and use of design guides and codes?
Not sure. Local and regional versions will be necessary: how is it proposed that such codes be ‘prepared locally with community involvement’ ? If they represent a bare minimum such as space per person (currently too little: see Parker Morris (1961)), fire safety and energy efficiency this might be possible, but otherwise it would be hard to make them sufficiently rigorous without local context.
Proposal 12: To support the transition to a planning system which is more visual
and rooted in local preferences and character, we will set up a body to support the delivery of provably locally-popular design codes, and propose that each authority should have a chief officer for design and place-making
Q18. Do you agree that we should establish a new body to support design coding and building better places, and that each authority should have a chief officer for design and place-making?
Not Sure. No confidence that County-level employees, often from out of area, either care or understand as much about the local area as eg T&PCs. One officer is unlikely to be enough to police all the codes, both before and after the decision on an application.
Proposal 13: To further embed national leadership on delivering better places, we will consider how Homes England’s strategic objectives can give greater emphasis to delivering beautiful places.
Q19. Do you agree with our proposal to consider how design might be given greater emphasis in the strategic objectives for Homes England?
No. This is yet another example of the Government’s top-down approach: whatever happened to Localism ?
Proposal 14: We intend to introduce a fast-track for beauty through changes to national policy and legislation, to incentivise and accelerate high quality development which reflects local character and preferences.
Q20. Do you agree with our proposals for implementing a fast-track for beauty?
No. ‘Beauty’ is a subjective concept, not appropriate to objective planning decisions.
Proposal 15: We intend to amend the National Planning Policy Framework to ensure that it targets those areas where a reformed planning system can most effectively play a role in mitigating and adapting to climate change and maximising environmental benefits.
Proposal 16: We intend to design a quicker, simpler framework for assessing environmental impacts and enhancement opportunities, that speeds up the process while protecting and enhancing the most valuable and important habitats and species in England.
Proposal 17: Conserving and enhancing our historic buildings and areas in the 21st century
Proposal 18: To complement our planning reforms, we will facilitate ambitious improvements in the energy efficiency standards for buildings to help deliver our world-leading commitment to net-zero by 2050.
RE: Proposals 15-18 inclusive.
Why are respondents not invited to give any views on all these proposals – some of the most important in the White Paper ? Specific climate change proposals in Clauses 32, 33 are welcome, as is Clause 3.29 on the importance of internationally, nationally and locally designated heritage assets, such as World Heritage Sites and conservation areas, as well locally significant features such as protected views.
Pillar Three (Planning for infrastructure and connected places)
Q21. When new development happens in your area, what is your priority for what comes with it?
Genuinely affordable Affordable Housing. With a multiplier of 18.3 for average wages in Purbeck for an average house price of £384K, this is a very real problem.
Proposal 19: The Community Infrastructure Levy should be reformed to be charged as a fixed proportion of the development value above a threshold, with a mandatory nationally-set rate or rates and the current system of planning obligations abolished
Q22(a). Should the Government replace the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 planning obligations with a new consolidated Infrastructure Levy, which is charged as a fixed proportion of development value above a set threshold?
No. Though there may be a case for reviewing CIL, s106 agreements are about more than money, and must be kept separate. S106s currently form legally binding commitments covering development or use of land in specified ways, and specified operations to be carried out. They can prioritise who will have access to affordable housing. This is a very important function which MUST be preserved.
Q22(b). Should the Infrastructure Levy rates be set nationally at a single rate, set nationally at an area-specific rate, or set locally? Set locally.
Q22(c). Should the Infrastructure Levy aim to capture the same amount of value overall, or more value, to support greater investment in infrastructure, affordable housing and local communities? More value.
Q22(d). Should we allow local authorities to borrow against the Infrastructure Levy, to support infrastructure delivery in their area? Yes.
Proposal 20: The scope of the Infrastructure Levy could be extended to capture
changes of use through permitted development rights
Q23. Do you agree that the scope of the reformed Infrastructure Levy should capture changes of use through permitted development rights? Yes.
Proposal 21: The reformed Infrastructure Levy should deliver affordable housing provision
Q24(a). Do you agree that we should aim to secure at least the same amount of affordable housing under the Infrastructure Levy, and as much on-site affordable provision, as at present?
Yes, more affordable housing. This is the priority in terms of real need, rather than demand.
Q24(b). Should affordable housing be secured as in-kind payment towards the Infrastructure Levy, or as a ‘right to purchase’ at discounted rates for local authorities?
No. Affordable housing needs to be affordable in perpetuity, and any affordable discounts must remain so for future sales/rents.
Q24(c). If an in-kind delivery approach is taken, should we mitigate against local authority overpayment risk? Yes.
Q24(d). If an in-kind delivery approach is taken, are there additional steps that would need to be taken to support affordable housing quality?
This approach should not become a ‘get out’ clause for developers.
Proposal 22: More freedom could be given to local authorities over how they spend the Infrastructure Levy
Q25. Should local authorities have fewer restrictions over how they spend the Infrastructure Levy?
No. It is very important that CIL supports infrastructure where it is generated. Increased housing without proper infrastructure backup is not sustainable in the broadest sense (see response to Q.16 above)
Q25(a). If yes, should an affordable housing ‘ring-fence’ be developed? YES.
Proposal 23: As we develop our final proposals for this new planning system, we will develop a comprehensive resources and skills strategy for the planning sector to support the implementation of our reforms. In doing so, we propose this strategy will be developed including the following key elements:
Proposal 24: We will seek to strengthen enforcement powers and sanctions
Qu 26. Do you have any views on the potential impact of the proposals raised in this consultation on people with protected characteristics as defined in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010? No [End]
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