New planning rules will ‘silence local voices’

www.bbc.co.uk 

New planning laws for England will “silence local voices and kill off our high streets”, Labour said as it urged Tory MPs to vote them down.

Labour says the new rules would allow developers to convert shops into homes without planning permission.

It is the first stage of sweeping changes to the planning system aimed at speeding up development.

The government insisted its plans would make the system “more democratic” while building the “homes communities need”.

Labour has secured a vote in the Commons on Wednesday in a bid to overturn the first stage of the reforms, made by ministers before the summer recess.

Under these changes, empty high street shops could be converted into housing and up to two storeys added to blocks of flats without the need for planning permission.

Labour’s shadow housing minister Mike Amesbury said: “This is the first stage of an atrocious new developers’ charter, which will wrench power away from local people and into the hands of the developers that bankroll the Tories.

“Passing this legislation will kill off our high streets, hobble leaseholders and create a new generation of slum housing – and there will be nothing local people can do to stop it.”

‘Crackers’

Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley has described the new rules as “crackers”, adding: “It allows landlords to shove a two storey block on top of a building with total disregard for how inappropriate it might be in the local neighbourhood.”

The government wants to make it quicker and easier to build new homes in what it has described as the biggest shake-up of England’s planning system in a generation.

But there is widespread concern among many Conservative MPs about the government’s proposed planning reforms.

Speaking last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the changes would help developers complete projects in a “more timely way” and help young people onto the housing ladder.

Under the government’s wider proposals, which have gone out to consultation, land will be divided into three categories – “growth”, “renewal” or “protected”.

If land is designated for “renewal” councils would have to look favourably on new developments. In “growth” areas, new homes, hospitals and schools will be allowed automatically.

Areas of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt will come under the “protected” category and “beautiful buildings” will be fast-tracked through the system.

A spokesperson for the Housing, Communities and Local Government Department described Labour’s claims as “misguided”.

“We’re overhauling the country’s outdated planning system to deliver the high-quality, sustainable homes communities need,” the spokesperson said.

“Community involvement and control is at the centre of our proposals so local people will be consulted from the very beginning when local plans are developed – making the system more democratic.

“They will also help our economy recover from the pandemic by supporting our high streets to adapt and encouraging the regeneration of disused buildings.”

 

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