Thomas Bridge 10 July 2015

Sweeping planning reforms must keep councils ‘central’ to process, warns LGA

Councils have warned communities risk being taken out of the planning process under new Treasury proposals designed to speed up house building.

Chancellor George Osborne today put house building at the centre of efforts to ‘raise productivity’, announcing measures that could sidestep local authorities in a bid to speed up delivery.

Proposals would see automatic planning permission granted in principle for developments on brownfield land under a new ‘zonal system’ for England designed to ‘reduce unnecessary delay and uncertainty’.

Councils that make 50% or fewer of their planning decisions on time would also be at risk of penalties or intervention from communities secretary Greg Clark to speed up production of local plans.

New league tables ranking local authority progress on delivery of homes and jobs are set for introduction.

Further measures would see buildings in London freed from requiring planning permission for upwards extensions up to the height of adjoining buildings.

However concerns were raised by the British Property Foundation that while many of the measures ‘hit the nail on the head’, the ‘severe shortage’ of local authority funds could hamper potential reforms.

The Local Government Association (LGA) also warned it was important that planning controls ‘remain proportionate’ and local communities ‘continue to have a say’.

Following the launch of the plans, Greg Clark said: ‘The top-down targets of the past planning system did nothing to deliver the homes our country needs. In contrast, putting local people in control has led to record numbers of homes being granted permission and support for housebuilding to grow.

‘Today’s proposals ensure we go further and faster, removing the barriers so we can keep the country building and support hard-working people to achieve their dream of home ownership.’

Cllr Mike Jones, LGA housing spokesman, said: ‘Councils want to see brownfield sites developed and many of these new measures will help with that, such as stronger compulsory purchase order powers to help councils take on sites stuck in the system.

‘Councils and their planning committees are rightly central to that locally accountable democratic process, allowing local people to have an influence over the changing shape of their neighbourhoods.

‘The fact is, planning is not what’s holding up development - it’s the cost of remediation and infrastructure.’

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