Government's planning shake-up could undermine place-making efforts says TCPA

Chancellor George Osborne has announced plans to create an "urban planning revolution" by speeding up house-building on brownfield sites.

High-rise flats. Image: Morguefile
High-rise flats. Image: Morguefile

The 90-page document, Fixing the Foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation, includes plans to remove "unnecessary" obstacles such as "detailed and discretionary scrutiny" that make building slow and expensive and reduce the appetite to build.

The proposal includes the development of a "zonal system" which would give automatic planning permission for building on suitable brownfield sites.

The Government had previously announced plans to create statutory registers of brownfield land in England that is suitable for housing; it will now grant automatic permission in principle for housing on brownfield sites which are on the register.

Osborne also promised that those local authorities which have failed to produce local plans to provide more housing will be overruled, with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Governmenmt stepping in to create a local plan in consultation with the community.

Proposals to streamline the planning process and improve cooperation between local authorities will also be brought forward, and changes will be made to the compulsory purchase regime to make it "clearer, faster and fairer for all parties".

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA)'s chief executive Kate Henderson said while the association agrees housing is needed, the measures risk marginalising communities. 

Henderson said: "The decision to give automatic planning permission to sites on brownfield land seriously undermines the ability for genuine place-making, and risks creating the slums of the future.  After all, without planning how can we bring forward high quality new communities which are accessible, affordable and sustainable?"

Concerns include locals not having a say in the development of their own communities, and poor planning with little thought given to amenities like play areas and doctors' surgeries.

Henderson added: "As we strive to build the homes that the nation desperately needs, it is vital that we have a strong focus on quality as well as quantity, and ensure that people remain at the heart of the planning system."

"We strongly believe that planning, when correctly and responsibly implemented, has the power to deliver outstanding outcomes and multiple benefits to our society.  However, the persistent deregulation of the planning system is removing this power and is damaging our ability to deliver the high quality places that we desperately need."

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