Planning system in England described as chaotic in new report

Planning in England has been reduced to a chaotic patchwork of responsibilities which has led to a complete lack of confidence from the public in terms of what is being built, according to a new review of the system.

The report from former Housing Minister Nick Raynsford says that the Government needs to introduce innovation and vision into the planning system which is currently letting people down in terms of the type of development that is taking place.

It urges the Government to immediately restrict permitted development, which allows the conversion of commercial buildings to housing units without any proper safeguards on quality.

It points out that findings collected over the last 18 months show that people no longer perceive councils as able to protect the public interest, with the economic gain of land owners and developers taking precedent over all else.

It also suggests that the National Infrastructure Commission should be re-fashioned to take control of a National Sustainable Development Plan which would act as the predominant framework for all planning decisions and speed up development and lead to greater market certainty.

Nick Raynsford said:

‘We ignore at our peril the anger and disaffection felt by so many communities at the failure of current planning policies and procedures to listen to their concerns and respond to their needs. Restoring public confidence in the planning system is one of our generation’s greatest challenges.

‘Visionary planning is not just about creating great places in which to live and work. It is also about ensuring that we meet the huge environmental challenges our society faces, not least those arising from the very serious threat of global warming.’

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) which commissioned the review, described permitted development as being ‘toxic’ and leading to inequality. Under the arrangements, which have produced over 100,000 housing units, vulnerable people are stripped of any right to light and space, which their children forced to play in active car parks, and no contribution to local services such as doctor’s surgeries or local schools,’ said Hugh Ellis, interim chief executive of the TCPA.

The British Property Federation said that it supports a planning profession that is visionary and sees beyond spatial considerations, to promote the economic and social well-being of communities.

Melanie Leech, BPF chief executive, said:

‘This is a well-reasoned report that deserves serious attention by policymakers and politicians and its motivation to revitalise the planning system, capable of effective and visionary place-making, is commendable and our sector is a willing partner to the delivery of this.

‘Empowering local authorities, however, and ensuring they are well-staffed and equipped, will underpin the success of this. We support the drive to ensure that local authorities have an up to date local plan and an employment use strategy.’

She pointed out that Permitted Development Rights (PDR) was a policy designed in response to planning policy failure, where too many office buildings sat empty for far too long.

Leech added:

‘Breathing life back into underused or vacant office buildings not only supports much-needed housing supply in the UK, but it is vital to our town and cities’ economic and social wellbeing.

‘Any trip through our suburbs soon exposes redundant office space that, with the best will in the world, is never going to be brought back into commercial use, and for such situations this policy is helpful. Design quality must, however, be at the heart of any development or regeneration project, in the way that it supports people’s lives, business performance and the environment.’


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