Homeowners will still be able to object to individual planning applications after the government confirmed a U-turn on reforms to the system.
Melissa York www.thetimes.co.uk
Ministers had planned to replace the planning application process with a zonal system and mandatory housebuilding targets, stripping homeowners of their right to object.
The Times reported in September that the shake-up of planning laws was to be abandoned after a backlash from voters and Conservative MPs in southern England. A change of approach from the government, however, was contained in a submission to the Lords built environment committee.
In the report it said: “There will be a continuing role for public consultation as part of the planning application process. Even where the broad principle of development is agreed . . . all the details would still need to be consulted on with communities and statutory consultees, and approved by officers or committees where appropriate.”
The government’s submission added: “Our reforms will give communities a greater voice from the start of the planning process . . . We also want to see more democratic accountability, with communities having a more meaningful say on the development schemes which affect them, not less.”
In response to the move, Tom Fyans, director of campaigns at the countryside charity the CPRE, said: “It appears the government now genuinely understands the need for local communities to have a powerful voice in planning decisions. These are encouraging signs that suggest a fundamental change of approach when it comes to determining what gets built where.”
The Lords report warned that ministers would not hit their target of building 300,000 new homes a year unless they stopped dithering over planning reforms. The cross-party committee said that uncertainty and delays in overhauling the system had had a “chilling effect” on housebuilding.
Baroness Neville-Rolfe, chairwoman of the committee, said: “The most important aspect in terms of housing supply is planning. Frankly all the twisting and turning over reform has had a chilling effect, creating uncertainty for housebuilders and planners.
“The government needs to bite the bullet and actually build housing of all types and tenures.”
The report said: “The challenges facing the housing market have been well documented: too many people are living in expensive, unsuitable, poor-quality homes. To address these complex challenges in the long term it is necessary to increase housing supply now.”
Local councils should be forced to come up with a plan for their area, Neville-Rolfe said, as more than half do not have an up-to-date strategy for building more homes.
Help to Buy, the government’s flagship homeownership scheme, is criticised for pushing up prices. The £29 billion cost of the scheme would “be better spent on increasing housing supply”, the committee said.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We share the ambition to reform the planning system to meet the demand for more high-quality homes and create a fairer housing market. We delivered more than 216,000 homes in England in 2020-21, well above the 186,500 forecast for the whole of the UK, and are investing a further £12 billion in affordable housing over the next five years.”