Western Morning News: Planning shake-up ‘puts developers in charge’

Owl notes that Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for planning, Tim Dwelly, said the authority would “strongly resist” any proposals that reduced the ability for communities to have their say. It will be interesting to see where Devon Conservative Councillors’ loyalties lie: with Boris Johnson or their their constituents?

[Western Morning News Saturday 8 August: MARTIN FREEMAN martin.freeman@reachplc.com]

GOVERNMENT proposals for a radical shake-up in the planning system will strip power from councils and place it in the hands of property developers, a countryside charity has warned.

The suggested new rules would boost developers’ profits while failing to help local people in need of affordable homes, said Penny Mills, director of CPRE Devon.

“It’s horrifying to see that planning control would effectively pass from our local planning authorities to property developers – the very people who stand to make huge profits from construction,” she said.

“[T]he Government appears to be allowing greedy developers to increase their profits whilst leaving priced-out-of-the-market youngsters with even fewer alternatives.”

Her comments were echoed by one council planning chief who said local people would be stripped of their say over planned developments. “This is a huge power grab for developers who’ll build wherever they like,” said Councillor Bill Stevens, who chairs the planning committee on Labour-controlled Plymouth City Council.

He wrote on Twitter: “Local people and their Councillors will no longer have a say on what happens in their neighbourhoods:’

The Government unveiled a white paper – proposed legislation – on planning earlier this week. Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said changes were needed to speed up the planning process, arguing that around a third of local decisions are overturned at appeal.

Under the proposals local discretion over the rate of building will effectively be removed with central government requiring local authorities to designate enough land to meet their share of a nationwide figure of 300,000 new homes a year.

Councils would be given up to three and half years to designate zones for growth, renewal or protection. Once those were in place, councils would have little say over applications that fitted the rules.

The Government also says the shake-up will bring smaller building firms into the picture, getting sites developed more quickly and avoiding “land banking” by large firms.

Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for planning, Tim Dwelly, said the authority would “strongly resist” any proposals that reduced the ability for communities to have their say. “I’m also concerned about any proposals which reduce our powers to deliver high quality development and will be looking at the detail to ensure that we have more, not less control, over the quality of development that is delivered.’

Richard Stubbs of CPRE Cornwall said he was concerned that decisions about the county could be taken within its borders. “When the Government talks about ‘housing need’ it disregards the acute pressure on counties like Devon and Cornwall,” he said.

Ann Maidment, director of the Country Land and Business Association in the South West, which represents 5,000 farmers, landowners and rural businesses in the region, said the white paper “proposes little” to “revive the rural economy’.

Judy Pearce, leader of Conservative-controlled South Hams District Council, said the document was “good in parts’,’ with promises to give communities “buy in” and for information technology to be introduced further into the system.

“But we do not want to see decisions being made by algorithms,” she said. It was also important to ensure that when permission was given, homes were built. “The large firms are at fault. We give them permission but they do not build out.”

Anthony Mangnall, the Conservative MP for Totnes, said the proposals promised greater protection for special landscapes, such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and would tackle land banking while the zoning system was “just what we need’: He added: “This white paper is also about consultation. I would urge people to give their views.”