Growth and Infrastructure Bill – an attack on the planning system


15th November 2012

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill currently going through Parliament is an attack on the planning system and environmental protections.

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill currently going through Parliament is an attack on the planning system and environmental protections. It re-iterates the myth that the planning system is an obstacle to growth. While we recognise the need for sustainable economic growth we do not feel that this Bill is the means to achieve it.

Today we have sent a letter to our six local MPs (Tony Baldry in Banbury; John Howell in Henley; Andrew Smith in Oxford East; Nicola Blackwood in Oxford West and Abingdon; Ed Vaizey in Wantage; David Cameron in Witney) stating our worries about the Bill.

Local, speed and quality

The Government wants to end ‘top-down government’ and to empower councils, communities and individuals and is committed to localism. But this Bill would take powers away locally and allow planning applications to be made directly to the Secretary of State. The Government says it wants to improve the ‘speed and  quality’ of development decisions. While we all want an efficient and effective planning system, we don’t think that speed andquality are always the same thing. Councils must be to say ‘no’ to poorly located and designed schemes. And ‘quality’ cannot be measured by the numbers of developments permitted. Pressuring local authorities to make quick decisions could lead to more poor quality developments. And it sends a message that it is growth – at whatever cost – that matters, rather than good development.

Affordable housing

The Bill will make it less likely that affordable housing will be built. It will be easier for developers to appeal against local authority efforts to secure land for affordable housing in planning agreements, and it is more likely that developers will propose low or no provision.  

E-communications infrastructure

The Bill would allow the Secretary of State to give the go-ahead to electronic communications infrastructure that could cause serious damage to designated landscapes. The main purpose of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty is to conserve beauty but this could be overridden for building infrastructure. Broadband access and mobile communications in rural areas is vital, but we should be able to have this at the same time as consserving the beauty of our rural landscapes, for example by investing in underground lines.

Town and Village Greens

The Bill attacks Town and Village Greens, suggesting that communities are motivated to seek registration of land as a Green largely to frustrate economic growth, rather than because of the long-term value they place on it. Making it more difficult to register greens seems like a sledgehammer to crack a very small nut – there were just 185 town and village green applications in 2009, alongside tens of thousands of applications for housing development.