Through its proposed Planning Bill the Government is determined to remove obstacles to development. Outline planning permission will be automatic as long as schemes meet local planning rules. To ensure that unfettered inappropriate development does not occur Local Plans will need to be strong in their requirements. Given that every local authority has been at a different stage in the Local Plan process, many will not be able to amend theirs.
At the moment the Croydon Plan adopted in 2018 is not strong enough, not doing what many of us have sympathy for, or what is perceived to be the general public's desire. The Government but if they were to follow the rules then planning must be in accordance with a Local Plan and a weak plan will allow more unfettered development.
The Council will be consulting on revisions to the Local Plan later this year. It is therefore important that all residents, environmental and other groups
devote a lot of energy to commenting on the Council’s draft and then challenging any weaknesses in the amended version at the Inspector’s Public Inquiry. Of course the degree to which it can be amended may be restricted by the detail of the Planning Bill.
The Bill’s Proposals
In the Bill the Government plans to divide England into areas designated for growth, protection, or renewal. In growth areas, current planning restrictions will be largely swept away to speed construction. Instead, automatic outline planning permission will be granted for applications for new homes, as well as shops, offices, schools, and hospitals, so long as they meet local planning rules. Development in “protection” and “renewal” zones will be more restricted.
At the moment London is a pre-Bill growth area, with housing targets set by the Government and through Mayor’s London Plan, recently approved by the Government after amendments. If London is designated a growth area in the Bill then Croydon Council controlled by either elected Councillors or by an elected Mayor will have little influence on planning decision making, and will not be able to improve listening to the concerns of residents.
The Bill also proposes:
· to move the planning system from a document-based to a digital one, in a bid to boost local consultation;
· a new infrastructure levy to replace the Section 106 system;
· a design code.
Reactions From Spokespersons Of Organisations
Institute of Economic Affairs: “We needlessly deprive ourselves of affordable high-quality housing because we allow a small number of well-housed, time-rich, anti-housing activists to shut down every development project they don’t like.”
Campaign for the Protection of Rural England warns that local people would lose any right to influence the development of their neighbourhoods.
Sustrans, the Transport Planning Society and other groups warn that the changes would mean homes would be built in locations which lack basic facilities including easy access to public transport.
The London Councils organisation warns the proposed changes would make it harder for local authorities to meet affordable housing targets. “Councils play a crucial role in the planning system, upholding quality standards and ensuring new development includes affordable housing for our communities. With around 50,000 planning applications granted by London boroughs each year, we’re doing our best to facilitate the new housing the capital needs.
Our concern is that ripping up planning regulations will only lead to more slum housing built to maximise profits rather than address Londoners’ needs. There’s so much more the government should be doing to invest in affordable housing and to support local councils’ housebuilding ambitions.”
The Local Government Information Unit says that the changes would “leave local government with the political liability on planning whilst depriving them … of the powers to manage it effectively”.
The Town and Country Planning Association: “It is disappointing that the government’s narrative has focused, once again, solely on housing numbers. If we are truly committed to building back better, we need the built environment to support communities to thrive.”
CPRE warns that the bill, runs counter to the proposed environmental bill and would “take us back to a deregulated dark age of development”. It fears most of the new homes are unlikely to be low-cost or affordable.
Bill Undermines Campaign For A Democratically Elected Mayor
When Chris Philp, the Tory MP for Croydon South, proposed a campaign for a directly elected Mayor for Croydon to replace the current Cabinet system, his argument was that it would give more weight to the views of local residents over planning decisions. This argument has been demolished by the Government’s proposed Planning Bill.
The energies of the supporters of a DM would be better spent campaigning against the Bill and trying to ensure that the Local Plan Review produces a stronger plan to limit inappropriate, unfettered development.