Monday, 18 April 2016

Central government to make more changes to planning system

In early March, a new organisation YourKidsFutureCornwall placed full page adverts in the Cornish Guardian and other local newspapers setting out its opposition to the high level of development taking place in Cornwall.

Describing themselves as “passionate about protecting Kernow from the developers’ onslaught,” their initiative has been widely reported as a “rallying call” against "the concreting of Cornwall.”

Put simply, they are arguing that the extent of development is out-of-control, with many acres of green fields being lost to large developments, which do not meet the local needs of the community or have their support. They are also pointing out how thousands and thousands of expensive, open market, properties are being built, which many ordinary people simply cannot afford while, at the same time, the affordable homes that Cornwall needs are not being provided.

It is a telling intervention at this time and shows the growing frustration being felt across Cornwall today.

I have written about the planning system in Cornwall on many occasions and it is clear to me that communities in Cornwall have very limited control over large-scale housing proposals.

Central government has put in place a top-down National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which contains a “presumption in favour” of development. This makes the document a “developers’ charter” and there have been numerous examples of where local communities have been unable to prevent inappropriate and unpopular developments.

And sadly, it is getting worse. The Government’s Housing and Planning Bill is presently working its way through parliament and proposes to make further changes to the NPPF.

This legislation is wide-ranging and it will, for example, further undermine the provision of proper affordable homes with the ridiculous proposal for “starter homes” (which would still be deemed “affordable” if costing £250,000) and reductions in length of tenancies in social rented properties.

In addition to this, many people may not have heard that, though the Bill, the Government is planning to introduce a new route to a planning consent called “permission in principle.”

The full details of how “permission in principle” would work remain unclear. But it does seem that consents would be granted in a shorter time-frame than at present and would be made with less detailed information than presently needed.

It is also clear that such a new approach would make it even more difficult for local communities to oppose inappropriate schemes.

The Housing and Planning Bill has hit some major difficulties in the House of Lords, but the Conservative Government still seems hell-bent on pushing through this frankly ill-thought-out and damaging legislation.

I would appeal to Cornwall six MPs to stand up for local communities and oppose the Bill and demand a new approach on planning matters.

[This will be my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian].

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