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Organised chaos: a change of planning

Monday, 29 October 2012 13:35

We had hoped that the changes in planning policy announced earlier this year would have had time by now to bed in, and that we would be able to assess their impacts, both good and bad.

But there’s more chaos on the way: in September the Government announced another set of proposals.

  • Financial support for housing developments; for example loan guarantees and buyer support We welcome this as recognition that it’s actually a lack of financial resources and demand that are the real problems, not lack of land or the planning system.
  • A new planning act to deal with major housing and commercial schemes as ‘infrastructure’ This is incredibly worrying. It would involve the Secretary of State determining applications made directly to the Planning Inspectorate, cutting out local planning authorities altogether. This sits awkwardly alongside the emphasis on ‘localism’!
  • A three-year ‘planning holiday’ on domestic and commercial extensions The suggestion is to double the permitted length of extensions to 8m for detached homes and 6m for others, but never more than half the size of a garden. Details will be crucial, but buildings could appear that are visually intrusive, as well as increasing neighbour v neighbour disputes. This is a direct attack on the concept of planning, good design and environmental protection.
  • Viability and planning obligation relaxations Developers are to be given the immediate right to appeal on planning obligations; currently they cannot do this for five years. This fundamentally undermines the negotiating position of a council. Viability is being suggested as a reason to scale back affordable housing and infrastructure requirements in a big way.

What concerns us most about the proposals is that planning is presented as an obstacle to growth. Combine these suggestions with a newly appointed Planning Minister, Nick Boles, who is on record as saying that ‘urban chaos’ may be a better alternative to the planning system, and you can see that CPRE will have some major challenges to fight in the coming months.

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