Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech (Tuesday, May 11) confirmed the government’s intention to push on with radical reforms of England’s planning system over the next year.
While no new substantive details were released regarding the reforms, the rhetoric accompanying the announcement was disheartening enough.
The stated purpose of the Planning Bill is to “create a simpler, faster and more modern planning system to replace the current one that dates back to 1947”. This focus upon speed, and the notion a complicated planning system is the cause of a lack of housing building, was repeated throughout yesterday’s media release.
Kent is already suffering the consequence of a planning system that prioritises how quickly and how many ‘units’ are granted above almost everything else. If a council is not meeting its centrally-set government housing targets, there is an automatic presumption further housing development will be permitted. This often trumps local concerns regarding the environment or whether there is sufficient infrastructure.
Kent is also already suffering the consequence of an increasingly deregulated planning system, which often leads to new houses in wholly unsustainable locations. This includes ever-expanding permitted development rights for new residential use and other new light-touch routes to gaining permission such as the permission-in-principle route.
While CPRE Kent agrees that more genuinely affordable houses in the right places are required, we absolutely reject the notion that it is a lack of speed or the complexity of the current planning system that is providing a barrier to housebuilding.
With councils approving nine in 10 planning applications and research by the Local Government Association finding that over the last decade more than 1.1 million homes have been granted planning permission in England than have been built, the evidence simply does not support that argument.
It is our view the government should focus on improving the current system, including using its powers to ensure developers actually build the permissions granted by councils rather than rewarding them with more permissions.
We are becoming increasingly concerned the Planning Bill will prove to be a developer’s charter that diminishes the views and role of local communities, ultimately at the expense of Kent’s countryside.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021