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Government planning white paper - our response

November 3, 2020 11:22 AM

Governbemtn white paper on planning response (Photo: Chuttersnap on Unsplash)Lib Dem motion shapes council's decision to challenge the Government's proposals to undermine local decision making on planning applications.

The Liberal Democrats presented a motion at the council meeting on 22 October and it shaped the council's decision to go against the government proposals.

We submitted this motion to Spelthorne Borough Council on 22 October 2020

"This Council notes: The publication by Government of the White Paper, Planning for the Future on 6 August 2020, which set out proposals on reforms to the planning process for the future.

This Council believes:
1. That existing planning procedures, as currently administered by our own team, allow for local democratic control over future development, and give local people a say in planning proposals that affect them.
2. That proposals for automatic rights to build in growth areas, and increase permitted development rights, risk unregulated growth and unsustainable communities.
3. That local communities must be in the driving seat on shaping the future of their communities, and local determination of the planning framework and planning applications play an important part in this process.

And this Council resolves to:
1. Take part in the consultation on the planning proposals, and to make representations against the proposals as outlined in this motion.
2. Write to and lobby our Member of Parliament, urging him to oppose these proposals and to circulate the reply to members.
3. Highlight its concerns over these proposals with the public and local residents.

This Council is concerned that the proposals seek to:
1. Reduce or remove the right of residents to object to applications near them.
2. Grant automatic rights for developers to build on land identified for growth.
3. Remove section 106 payments for infrastructure and their replacement with a national levy.

The vast majority of planning applications are given the go ahead by local authority planning committees, with permission granted to around 9 out of 10 applications.
And research by the Local Government Association has said that there are existing planning permissions for more than one million homes that have not yet been started.

This Council further notes: The Royal Institute for British Architects called the proposals shameful and which will do almost nothing to guarantee delivery of affordable, well-designed and sustainable homes. RIBA also said that proposals could lead to the next generation of slum housing. The reforms are opposed by the all-party Local Government Association, currently led by Conservative Councillors."
Proposed by Councillor B.B. Spoor
Seconded by Councillor T. Fidler

Spelthorne Liberal Democrat response to the government in full:

The proposals being made in the white paper have met with a lot of criticism from respected bodies that should not be ignored. RIBA, LGA, The Wildlife Trust are just a few to point out. Their criticisms are well founded as his White Paper attacks the principle of Local Democracy.

The local residents and planning officers have a very good knowledge of the local conditions and requirements. A central based organisation has no idea of the constraints and needs of a local area. We have seen the importance of localism in delivering the needs of residents rather than the top down approach being effective. Often any top-down structure meets a lot of resistance. We could end up with swathes of slum dwellings where no one wishes to live which serves no one.

The main root of the problems is the perceived thought that simplifying planning will produce a building explosion. Right now 60% of approved planning applications do not have a plan to start. And most planning applications get passed on the first or second attempt. It does not need a complete overhaul of the system to enable a few more applications being passed. They would probably have failed the system because there were design faults in the application which would ensure the development would not be successful. These are rightfully flagged early to ensure that the standard of housing is met.

Local input is more important to ensure that the local requirements are taken into consideration so that a community is created where the children have their educational needs close by and the ability to shop and browse does not need a car to be essential. The development of communities is not exclusive to changes in planning policy. It is about the interaction of a number of areas across local authorities that reflect the local environment. Even within Spelthorne, the needs of the communities vary significantly, let alone with the rest of the United Kingdom.

Having to zone all of the land, giving developers the green light on Growth areas, does not provide a long term strategy to developing communities. It changes the ability for planning good infrastructure and communities. Housing policy is not resolved through giving more power to developers, it's given by improving the way in which developers work with Local Authorities and local residents, where the latter two drive the agenda.

These requirements, like good infrastructure, are met in part by the CIL levy. It is agreed locally and used locally to try and provide the necessary infrastructure. Putting it into a central pot to be distributed as to the controllers preferences will lead to the destitution of some and the prosperity of others totally irrespective of their needs. We have seen in financial settlements from the Government the inconsistencies in getting the funding allocated fairly for authorities. Whilst CIL and Section 106 in Spelthorne need improving at a Local Level, the allocation is there contributed by developments in Spelthorne for the benefit of Spelthorne residents.

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