Thomas Bridge 13 July 2015

Government accused of shedding localism agenda under new planning reforms

Government accused of shedding localism agenda under new planning reforms image

Planning reforms designed to speed up construction represent a ‘shift away from localism’, according to the chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee.

Clive Betts has warned that Government plans to grant automatic planning approval for developments on brownfield land and free up London buildings from requiring planning permission for upwards expansion represent ‘a threat to the ability of local people to have their say on development in their area’.

Communities secretary Greg Clark said the plans to improve national productivity would remove barriers to ‘keep the country building’.

However Betts said he was ‘concerned by the shift away from localism that is suggested by these brownfield measures, the proposals on planning and building in London, and the proposals to take away from local communities any say over housing development that is part of a major project’.

He said that the measures ‘fail to spell out how we can ensure development is supported by the necessary infrastructure’ including parks and affordable housing, which he added were crucial if developments ‘can ever be genuinely sustainable’.

Betts welcomed government plans to intervene in local authorities that fail to produce local plans as ‘a useful first step’ but questioned how ministers would ‘stop councils dragging their feet on this issue’.

He voiced uncertainty that brownfield reforms would boost development, warning – in concerns that chimed with concerns voiced by the Local Government Association – that the biggest barrier to more building on these sites was ‘availability of resources to make these sites suitable for development’ rather than ‘sluggish’ town hall action.

Responding to the claims, housing and planning minister, Brandon Lewis, said: 'We want to build the much needed homes for future generations and by putting Local Plans at the heart of the planning system we are allowing local people, who know best, to decide what development is most appropriate for their area.

'We have got the country building again and by prioritising the use of brownfield land we are making the best use of land whilst protecting the Green Belt.

'All of this is reaping results, with the latest figures showing more than 570,000 new homes built since April 2010 and planning permissions granted for 253,000 new homes in 2014.'

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