Date issued: 23 October 2020
Councillors last night expressed concerns over plans for a radical shakeup of the planning system, by unanimously agreeing a motion to oppose the Government’s Planning for the Future White Paper and press local MPs to do the same.
In a letter signed by the Leader of the Council, Cllr Mark Cory, on behalf of the Full Council, local MPs Will Quince, Priti Patel and Bernard Jenkin are urged to support the council and reject Government proposals to cut through planning red tape and promote a huge rise in house building.
The Government says the country needs to build 300,000 homes a year and to meet that target, intends to scrap some existing planning regulations.
It also wants to review the housing target formula, which determines how many homes each area needs to build every year. If the White Paper becomes law, Colchester’s target would almost double from 920 to 1,612
Speaking after last night’s meeting of the Full Council, Cllr Cory said: “The Planning for the Future White Paper, left unchallenged, will become an unrestrained developer’s charter and inflict further and ongoing planning misery on our residents. If any policy were designed to place an even greater strain on local services and infrastructure, this would be it.
“We want more checks and balances, not fewer, and all our residents to be protected with stronger, not weaker, planning laws and lower housing targets from this Conservative government.
“I would urge all three of our local MPs to support the council, our residents and local democracy and held defeat these ill-conceived plans.”
The letter in full:
I am writing to let you know that at its meeting of Full Council on 21 October Colchester Borough unanimously approved and adopted the following motion about the Planning for the Future White Paper:
“This Council notes the publication of the Planning White Paper Planning for the Future and expresses its concerns about the proposals it contains.
Current planning laws are already in favour of development with 90% of planning applications approved and approximately one million unbuilt permissions sitting with developers nationwide. Proposals outlined in the Planning White Paper Planning for the Future further distance local residents and local democracy from the planning process.
This Council therefore resolves to object to any potential detrimental national and local planning policies and calls on our three MPs representing Colchester Borough to support the following consultation responses:
- Diminishing local input: The proposals contained within the White Paper risk
diminishing the role of planning authorities, planning committee members and ward councillors. Automatic permission granted in “growth areas” and permission in principle in “renewal areas, give no democratic oversight of local development;
- Sites already have permission: The million sites nationwide currently in the system with existing planning permissions for houses that have not yet been built, or even started to be built, along with the high proportion of planning applications that are agreed, are a clear sign that the planning process is not a barrier to development;
- Give Local Authorities, Parish, Town and Community Councils more power and resources: While the current planning system is not perfect this is at least in part due to reductions in central government funding to local planning authorities which have, in turn, led to local authorities reducing expenditure on planning services. Such reductions have affected both the processing of planning applications and enforcement activities;
- Targets for Affordable Housing must be met: Strengthen our hand in providing affordable housing and reform viability assessment criteria that allow developers to get away without providing adequate affordable housing.
- Net-zero Carbon development needed now: Implement a much earlier target for net-zero carbon standards for new build-housing. 2050 is too late, investment must be given to enable net-zero building from now on;
- Contributions must benefit communities not developers: The ‘nationalisation’ of the level of developer contributions could assist large national developers at the expense of local communities. Faster is not always better when local community infrastructure requires thoughtful development. Proposals must encourage the use of local, small and medium developers, as well as self-build;
- Neighbourhood Plans: Neighbourhood Plans are an effective tool for the community to shape local areas, including local infrastructure, services and housing. They must be supported and strengthened in any future planning reforms.
In addition to making these points to the government, we ask that our three MPs support Colchester Borough Council’s ‘Planning for the Future: White Paper August 2020’ Consultation response.
I am writing to you in accordance with the terms of the motion to ask that you raise the points included in the motion within or to the government, and to ask that you support our response to the consultation on the White Paper, a copy of which is attached.
I look forward to receiving your response to this motion, in due course.