CPRE Kent response to proposed planning reforms

The Government has proposed sweeping reforms to the planning system including:

* Automatic planning permission on all suitable brownfield (former industrial) sites, removing unnecessary delays

* Power for the Government to intervene and have local plans drafted when councils fail to produce them and penalties for those that make 50 per cent or fewer planning decisions on time

* Stronger compulsory purchase powers to bring forward more brownfield land, and devolution of planning powers to the Mayors of London and Manchester

* Major infrastructure projects which include housing development to be fast-tracked

* End the need for planning permission for upwards extensions for a limited number of storeys up to the height of the adjoining building in London

* Higher-density development around key commuter hubs

* Redefining “affordable housing” to include discounted market housing, i.e. starter homes.

 

Photo: CPRE

Photo: CPRE

CPRE Kent response:

CPRE Kent agrees that we need to build more homes, especially affordable homes.

In 2012-13, the UK hit a post-war low of 135,500 homes. Last year the figure recovered slightly to 141,000 homes.

However we know there are existing sites with planning permission for thousands of homes in Kent and elsewhere and we believe more should be done to actually get these homes built. Too many companies are landbanking (the practice of buying land as an investment, holding it for future use  or selling it on with permission but without specific plans for homes to be constructed – i.e land trading). There should be measures put into place to make them actually deliver these new homes within a certain time.

We have long been calling for better use for brownfield sites and are glad the government is backing this. However there still needs to be local consideration about sustainability and infrastructure and which sites are suitable for housing development. CPRE believes there should be a strong presumption in favour of “brownfield first” with these safeguards.

Higher density development around commuter hubs may help more sustainable modes of transport (rail/cycle/walking) but could damage areas of countryside and important green buffers around built up areas so again proper consideration and consultation with communities is vital.

The big issue with local plans is speed versus engagement with local communities. Consultation takes time. Our fear is that local people would get bypassed and there would be inadequate consultation. Local authorities need clearer guidance on the essential evidence base required for a local plan as this can cause unnecessary delays in plan preparation. We do not want local plans to be taken away from local people.

In terms of speeding up planning decisions we are concerned that major applications will take time and need thorough consideration and consultation. If the decisions are taken away from local authority level and decided by a planning inspector this will go against localism.

Likewise we would not want to see major housing proposals and proposals under the national infrastructure commission considered nationally – local people need to be engaged and consulted with on any development which affects their community.

CPRE nationally has also issued the following comments:

CPRE has reacted to the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday (8th October) on building 200,000 starter homes – and no longer requiring developers to provide low-cost rented homes.

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the CPRE, comments:

“The availability of truly affordable housing is a real problem in rural areas, where housing stock is low and average wages are lower. Abolishing rules that guarantee affordable homes and replacing them with homes most local people can’t afford will make this situation even worse.

“We need to keep on providing more rented housing in rural areas, and we need to be doing more for those who cannot or do not want to buy their own home.”

Meanwhile it was announced on 24 September by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, that the Government has worked with the National Housing Federation to propose a voluntary agreement to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants.

Associations have been given a week to decide whether they would like to sign up to this agreement. It is also important to note that the voluntary arrangement entertains the idea that rural areas will be exempt from the extension to Right to Buy.

John Rowley, planning officer at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:

“We believe that such monumental changes to rural housing need to be carefully considered and open to public scrutiny. Although the proposed voluntary agreement does mention exemptions in rural areas, the definition of ‘rural’ is incomplete and out of date.

“We are therefore calling on the Government to update the rural definition for exemptions, and ensure that any changes to the current system are subject to consultation and transparency. Without these conditions, it is possible that rural communities will lose a significant number of genuinely affordable homes without proper assurance that these homes will be replaced or that others will be available for those that need them.”

October 8th 2015

 

 

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