Austin Macauley 01 April 2016

Government urged to intervene over local plan delays

MPs have called on the Government to clarify how it will tackle ‘dawdling’ local authorities that do not have a local plan in place by 2017.

The Communities and Local Government Committee said it was ‘disappointed’ that 17% of councils have not published local plans and 44% have not yet adopted plans.

It also warned that proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) could lead to a stand off between developers and local authorities over the development of brownfield sites for housing.

‘We have particular concerns about the risk that developers will delay developing brownfield sites because local authorities will be required to release more profitable greenfield sites if insufficient housing is delivered to meet local needs,’ said the committee’s report.

MPs said they did not believe ‘that thus far there has been sufficient robust, objective and evidence-based monitoring, evaluation or review of the NPPF’ and have called for a full review of national planning policy by the end of this Parliament.

Committee chair Clive Betts said: ‘Councils need to do more to identify suitable brownfield sites and to protect their communities against the threat of undesirable development by getting an adopted local plan in place. The NPPF is designed to work side by side with local plans. It’s simply not good enough that 44% of local authorities don’t have an adopted plan.

‘The Government needs to act to put an end to dawdling local authorities and indicate whether they will take up the recommendation by the minister’s own Local Plans Expert Group, and we call on him to reconsider the recommendation made by our predecessor committee that a statutory duty should be placed on local authorities to produce and maintain local plans.’

Cllr Peter Box, housing and planning spokesman at the Local Government Association, said 84% of councils had already published plans identifying land suitable for housing.

‘A huge amount of research and multiple consultations are needed to ensure local plans reflect local opinions and map out development in an area not just over the coming years but over decades. Councils have always said that the process of getting plans in place would take time and the most important thing is to get them right.

‘The planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding. Councils approve almost nine out of 10 planning applications but our recent analysis shows there are up to 475,000 homes with planning permission which are still waiting to be built. The drivers behind this are complex and beyond the influence of the planning system, such as access to finance, land affordability and the availability of skilled labour.

‘Councils are desperate to clear this backlog and share the Government’s frustration when housing delivery does not meet forecasts set out in local plans. Instead of applying a delivery test on councils, town halls need more powers to encourage developers to build homes more quickly and tackle our growing construction skills shortage, which the industry says is one of the greatest barriers to building.’

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