Planning and housing reforms must not marginalise and divide communities

Published on Thursday, 06 September 2012 14:27
Posted by Scott Buckler

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA)has today urged the Coalition Government to ensure that their package of housing and planning announcements do not create a legacy of social polarisation or undermine local democratic accountability in the planning system

Commenting on the Government's proposals to allow developers to challenge a council's affordable housing targets, Kate Henderson, TCPA Chief Executive said:

"The TCPA supports the Government's ambitions to kick-start the economy and support housing delivery, however it must not be at the expense of those least able to afford decent homes. The Prime Minister has described "costly affordable housing" as a barrier to housing delivery, but it is well understood that social and affordable homes are essential to creating mixed, vibrant and resilient communities. The detail of how the planning inspectorate administers changes to affordable housing requirements of Section 106 agreements will be very important in ensuring we strike the right balance between bringing housing supply forward and maintaining delivery of new affordable homes. We cannot risk creating a legacy of social division. Once these places are built the long term consequences of this division cannot be easily undone."

Responding to the further deregulation of the planning system, the TCPA echoes the findings of the LGA's research published today that almost 400,000 homes have been granted planning permission but are incomplete, with building work yet to start on more than half. The LGA's research also shows that councils are more positive than ever towards development, with planning applications at a 10-year high last year.

The Government's announcements today raise some serious questions about the detail of their implementation, including:

  • What will putting 'poor performing' councils into 'special measures' necessitate?
  • What are the democratic and accountability implications of putting big commercial and residential applications into a major infrastructure fast track?
  • How will these changes work with localism, including developers being able to have decisions taken by the Planning Inspectorate rather than by a 'poor councils'?
  • Where will the resources come from to implement these changes?

Kate Henderson added:

"The LGA research has rightly identified that planning is not the barrier to economic growth that the Government's rhetoric suggests. The real barrier is a lack of finance in the system. The implications of the Government's drive towards by-passing local authorities are serious. Local communities may well be marginalised and the increased workload for the Planning Inspectorate is unlikely to lead to any time or cost saving for the private sector without significant resource. The Government needs to carefully consider public legitimacy in planning decisions."

Source: ©TCPA

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