William Eichler 11 January 2017

Local planning system ‘weighted’ towards developers, councillors say

The majority of councillors think the planning system is ‘too weighted’ in favour of developers, according to a new survey.

The survey of over 1,200 ward councillors in England revealed 72% believe the system benefits developers at the expense of councils and local communities.

Carried out by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), and commissioned by the National Trust, the survey also found over half the councillors say sites not in line with the council’s plan are being approved for housing in their area.

Many of the respondents also registered concerns about Green Belt release and the loosening of the planning system through the introduction of permitted development rights for home extensions, office to residential use conversion, barn conversions and other changes of use.

The under-resourcing of planning teams was also a major concern, the LGiU discovered.

The National Trust and the LGiU both highlighted the concerns many councillors have over the new Housing White Paper. They warned it could make matters worse by setting rigid housing numbers for local plans which don’t take account of local factors such as Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGiU, called on Whitehall to ensure Local Planning Authorities are well resourced and councils supported when setting design standards.

He also described the planning system as a ‘fundamental pillar’ of local democracy.

‘The planning system is one of the fundamental pillars of local democracy, allowing communities to help shape the physical structure of the places they live,’ he said.

‘Councillors are the most important link between communities and that system. Our survey with the National Trust shows that many councillors feel that this democratic tool is at risk of being undermined.’

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