Planning Debate

On Thursday 15th July, Bob Seely MP has called a Westminster Hall Debate on the future of the planning system and the upcoming Planning Bill

The Rural Services Network has put together a briefing note for MP’s ahead of the debate which sets out some of our concerns in relation to proposed changes to the planning system.

We believe that:

  • Proposals to reform the Proposals to reform the planning system, designating three types of zones, are too simplistic and will not meet varying economic, social, and environmental needs in rural areas. Residents and their parish councils must continue to be given a say about planning applications.
  • A successful land use planning system needs to have both the ability and local flexibility to plan for rural communities that are sustainable in economic, social, and environmental terms, meeting the varied needs of small as well as large settlements. Current proposals set out in the Planning White Paper (PWP) will need to be revisited and considerably revised if they are to deliver that objective.

The RSN is keen that MP’s from all parties understand some of the key challenges facing rural areas and can take these factors into consideration when designing changes to the system.

  • Government statistics already show a chronic shortage of affordable housing in rural areas.
  • With the current proposal, many rural communities will see no affordable homes being provided at all.
  • RSN recommends two small changes to avoid this risk:
    1. Replace the definition of designated rural areas from those areas listed under S157 regulations to all parishes with a population of 3,000 or fewer.
    2. Adopt the wording in the NPPG1 that was introduced in July 2019 that allows local planning authorities to set their own thresholds for affordable housing in their designated rural communities.
  • Removing affordable housing requirements will lead to higher land values and this will inevitably further constrain the ability of SME builders to compete in purchasing sites.
  • It is critical that rural communities are allowed to thrive and that the many key workers who have been so important during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, are able to afford to live in the communities they serve.
  • Proposals to drop community consultation from the planning application process (except for technical matters) should be reversed.
  • Encouraging more digital engagement with the planning process is welcome, but non-digital input must also be retained.
  • Proposals need to be clarified to offer a substantive future role for Neighbourhood Plans.
  • Local planning authorities should be able to decide the tenure of affordable housing, based on needs in their areas.

The RSN held a dedicated event on the Planning White Paper with organisations in membership to ensure that potential implications as a result of proposals were understood and contributed to rural responses to the consultation.

You can see the RSN response to the planning consultation at this link:


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