Friday, 01 April 2016 09:30

Clash over call for planning review

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Clash over call for planning review

LOCAL councils and rural business leaders are divided over calls by MPs for a review of national planning policy.

It follows a call by the Communities & Local Government Committee which said there had been insufficient evaluation of the National Planning Policy Framework since its publication in 2012.

Local communities would not benefit fully from the framework unless local authorities properly fulfilled their responsibilities to publish and adopt Local Plans, it warned.

Four years on from the publication of the framework, 17% of local authorities had still not published Local Plans and 34% had not yet adopted Plans, said the committee.

    See also: MPs call for planning policy review

Local council representatives defended the percentages – but rural business leaders said local authorities should be made legally obliged to publish and adopt Local Plans.

Local Government Association spokesman Peter Box said 84% of councils had already published a Local Plan which identified land, including brownfield 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."

Any automatic assumption that brownfield sites are suitable for residential use, without enabling councils to consider issues such as location, was unnecessary, said Councillor Fox.

"The planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding," he added.

"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 were desperate to clear the backlog and shared the government's frustration when housing delivery did not meet forecasts set out in Local Plans.

Instead of imposing a delivery test on councils, authorities needed more powers to encourage developers to build homes more quickly and tackle a skills shortage in construction.

But the Country Land and Business Association said the government must take a firmer stand with local councils that were failing to put in place an up-to-date Local Plan.

CLA housing adviser Matthew O'Connell said the report had highlighted the "shocking fact" that 34% of councils still didn't have a Local Plan in place.

"Every area must have a Local Plan," said Mr O'Connell.

"It is the essential local framework for delivering much-needed rural housing, and provides a basis for making investments that benefit the local economy and community.

"Too many rural communities and businesses are being stifled because their local planning authority will not put in place the up to date Local Plan that Government requires of them."

Rural areas were suffering from the housing crisis and small scale developments were important in providing homes, creating jobs and ensuring the continued vibrancy of rural communities.

"We are supportive of the Government's efforts to reverse this decline by freeing up opportunities for developing small scale housing sites," said Mr O'Connell.

"While we appreciate the need to monitor the impact of the development of small sites, housing has to be built somewhere and small sites are obviously more suited to smaller communities.

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