Government Proposals for Planning Reform
Proposed by Cllr Hollingsworth
Labour member motion
The planning system created by the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 strikes a balance between the rights of individual landowners and the rights of past, present and future citizens. That balance is sometimes uncomfortable and difficult to manage, but on the whole it has worked.
The Government’s Planning White Paper and the simultaneous proposals to cut affordable and social housing contributions from developments of up to 50 homes, sets out to destroy that balance.
The Town and Country Planning Association say “ the proposals will undermine local democracy, marginalise local councils and fail to achieve the kind of high-quality places that the government is committed to delivering" and that “the tendency to side-line the voice of people and centralise the system a clearly expressed in the intent of this White Paper”.
This Council agrees.
The basis for the proposed ‘reforms’ is the claim that the planning system holds up development; this is demonstrably false. More than one million homes with planning permission have not been built, and more than 90% of planning applications are approved. The failure to build new housing is not a result of the planning system, but of market failure and above all the failure to invest in social housing.
The proposed Zoning system will take away most of the rights for local people to raise concerns and objections to planning applications. The increase in permitted development rights gives power to those who already have it and takes power away from those without; we have seen the consequences of this sort of deregulation in homes built without windows, what the RIBA rightly called ‘tomorrow’s slums’.
The proposal to allow automatically developments that are ‘beautiful’ – a term that is impossible to define meaningfully – reduces the debate to what buildings look like, and doesn’t allow local communities any input into what those buildings are for.
Rather than provide more desperately needed social housing, the Government’s proposals will cut it. In Oxford, where the largest development sites are rare, the changed definition of a small site means that hundreds of social housing units will be lost.
And worse, that number will be further reduced by the proposed requirement that 25% of affordable homes should be First Homes, homes to buy at a small discount.
In total more than 900 council homes for rent – the only genuinely affordable tenure for so many people – will be lost.
This city, like so many places across the county does not need attacks on the planning system and local democracy; what it needs is a mass programme of social housing to provide affordable, secure and decent homes for all our citizens.
This Council therefore:
· supports all efforts to oppose the anti-democratic and centralising proposals put forward by the Government;
· asks the Leader of the Council to write to the Government, to the Local Government Association and to other bodies expressing that view;
· supports Shelter’s campaign that the Government should commit to building 200,000 new social homes a year by 2035.
This motion was not taken as the time allocated for debate had finished.