Sunday, 17 January 2021

Council criticises planning shake-up

THE Government’s plans to speed up the process for approving new homes will benefit developers more than communities, a parish council has warned.

Councillors in Goring say the proposals, outlined in a White Paper called Planning for the Future, don’t allow detailed scrutiny of developers’ applications.

The Government proposes changing land allocation to just three types — “growth” for large-scale development, “renewal” for lesser development and “protected”.

It would give automatic outline permission for building in “growth” areas with only the finer details to be decided with an application to the planning authority.

Responding to a consultation on the plans, the parish council says this would give communities less of a voice.

It supports the principle of reform but adds: “These specific proposals seem more about streamlining the process to benefit developers but drastically reducing local participation and eliminating individual rights for when applications are
disputed.

“This is likely to reduce engagement, increase apathy and risks creating serious problems with cohesiveness and pride-of-place.

“We strongly believe that any reforms must put forward a society-benefiting purpose for planning, enhancing the focus on sustainable development, quality of life and the general health and wellbeing of all.

“We are particularly concerned about the change in the requirement for affordable homes included only in larger developments.

“Though we live in a large village with an adopted neighbourhood plan, the community overwhelmingly rejected the idea of a large development as part of that process.”

The council is concerned about plans to remove section 106 agreements in which developers pledge money for local infrastructure should they be given planning permission.

This would be replaced by the community infrastructure levy, which is set at a national rate which the parish council says isn’t high enough to help rural communities.

It says the older section 106 agreements often fund extra “affordable” housing at prices below the market rate.

It concludes: “It’s important to make local plans more accessible and engaging but although a broad-brush ‘zoning’ approach sounds helpful, it doesn’t address the much-needed nuance.

“The devil is in the detail of a good planning proposal and a bad one.

“[This] is likely to encourage more mistakes and does not allow for proper legal review. We would suggest that local needs and engagement become more central to the process.”

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, says the proposals would make it harder to stop inappropriate development.

Henley MP John Howell says councillors and communities would still decide how land is categorised.

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