STRONG reform of planning policy is needed to help speed up the building of more homes in Staffordshire, Philip Atkins the Leader of Staffordshire County Council has said.
Speaking after the Prime Minister Theresa May pledged that planning rules will be re-written to Cut red tape, use land more efficiently, fast-track planning permissions and put local plans in place to give communities more control.
Philip Atkins welcomed the news – but said the reforms still needed to go further – with county councils playing a greater role in creating the right conditions necessary to give more working people the keys to their own homes.
Philip said: “I am pleased that the government has recognised that the current planning system is flawed and needs to change. However, the reforms still need to be strengthened further to ensure that local county areas have the infrastructure needed to support new homes and sustainable development.
“Like cities, we need to be able take a strategic view to better align infrastructure with housing development and we would like to see even greater collaborative working between our district and borough partners, who are responsible for planning control and ourselves as the county-wide infrastructure lead, in the urgent delivery of more homes.”
Philip, in his role as Vice Chairman of the County Council Networks and its national spokesman on planning, housing and infrastructure, was part of representatives from a coalition of national organisations to call on the house secretary Sajid Javid to act now to bring together the different district and borough and county council responsibilities on a more formal basis.
Prime Ministers speech
On Monday, March 5, Theresa May warned developers who are too slow to build houses that their past record could count against them when they bid for new planning permissions.
The Prime Minister also highlighedt the “perverse incentive” in the bonus structure of some house builders which does not encourage them to build homes that are affordable.
In a speech in London, the PM said the government is “rewriting the rules on planning” to help developers and local authorities build more properties – restoring the dream of home ownership.
The new planning rules will make the system fairer and more effective by streamlining the process, cutting red tape and ending barriers to building.
While progress has been made in building more homes – over 217,000 new homes were built last year – the PM said “for decades this country has failed to build enough of the right homes in the right places”.
The Prime Minister said that when used incorrectly, planning rules can create barriers to building, tying up councils in red tape and allowing some developers to game the system. Once planning permission is granted, a variety of factors can slow down delivery and the Oliver Letwin Review is looking at explaining the gap.
The PM said:
“This government is rewriting the rules on planning. With the major overhaul being published today, we’re giving councils and developers the backing they need to get more homes built more quickly…The reforms driven forward under our last Prime Minister led to a great and welcome increase in the number of planning permissions granted. But we did not see a corresponding rise in the number of homes being built.”
The new rules will see around 80 of the proposals set out in the Housing White Paper implemented, including using land more efficiently, fast tracking planning permissions into homes, giving greater certainty to local authorities and putting local plans in place to give communities more control.
She announced that the government is maintaining existing strong protections, “so that authorities can only amend Green Belt boundaries if they can prove they have fully explored every other reasonable option for building the homes their community needs.” There will also be stronger protections for ancient woodlands and historic coastlines.
Only 10 per cent of England has been built on and only 13 per cent is covered by Green Belt – the purpose of which is to prevent urban sprawl. The PM will be clear that developers and local authorities must only allocate Green Belt sites for development for exceptional reasons. Should development have to go ahead it must first make use of brownfield sites, and where land is removed, they must create new spaces.
This major overhaul to the National Planning Policy Framework, the first in six years, will be launched today to provide a comprehensive approach for planners, developers and councils so they can build the homes this country needs.
The plans will be consulted on over the next 8 weeks – with a final version expected to be published in the summer.