Commons Select Committee Publishes Report of Future of Planning System – Calls for Review of Green Belt

Here

A few highlights (my Emphasis)

Green Belt

  1. We agree with evidence that called for the protection of the green spaces in the Green
    Belt; whilst also recognising that not all Green Belt land are green spaces. A review
    should examine the purpose of the Green Belt, including whether it continues to serve
    that purpose, how the public understand it, what should be criteria for inclusion, and
    what additional protections might be appropriate. The creation of new Local Plans
    also provides an opportunity for local reviews of Green Belts and the Government
    should help identify those local authorities where such reviews are particularly urgent.

    Local Plans can also relieve pressure on Green Belts by prioritising developments on
    brownfield sites. The Government should ensure there is sufficient funding provided
    to support their decontamination. (Paragraph 210)

The Government’s three areas proposal

  1. The lack of details about the three areas approach has made it difficult to assess
    how it would function. Our evidence has suggested there are problems with the
    three areas proposal.
    These have included its potential unsuitability in urban areas;
    doubts over whether Local Plans will have the level of detail for developers to know
    whether their proposals will qualify for permission in principle and avoid using
    planning permission procedures; the uncertainty over the purposes of renewal
    areas; and the level of protection to be afforded in protected areas. Overall, we are
    unpersuaded the Government’s zoning-based approach will produce a quicker,
    cheaper, and democratic planning system. The Government should reconsider the
    case for the three areas proposal. Any new proposals can be considered in detail if the
    Planning Bill is published in draft form and we undertake pre-legislative scrutiny, as
    we recommend. (Paragraph 32)

Local Plans

  1. We welcome the Government’s proposal that having an up to date Local Plan should
    be a statutory requirement on local authorities. We also welcome the proposal
    that Local Plans should be more focused and shorter. But we do not agree that the
    30-month timeframe proposed for the development of Local Plans is enough to
    ensure high quality. We are particularly concerned about the challenges the proposal
    poses for statutory consultees, especially as all plans will have to be addressed within
    the same timeframe. The Government should extend the 30-month timeframe for
    the initial production of Local Plans as it is too short for creating new plans from
    scratch. The Government must ensure that statutory consultees have time to comment
    on Local Plans. The Government should consider a staggered roll-out of the new types
    of Local Plans across the country. It should be permissible and straightforward to
    undertake quick updates of Local Plans every two years, including with appropriate
    time for public consultation.
    The Government should consider the case for confirming
    that the National Grid is a statutory consultee in new Local Plans. (Paragraph 45)

The housing formula

  1. We support the principle of using a standard method that applies across the
    country. We recognise there has been criticism of the current standard method
    for not promoting levelling up by reducing the targets for future homes below the
    numbers currently being delivered. It also does not directly consider brownfield
    sites nor environmental and other constraints on developable land in a particular
    area. (Paragraph 110)
  2. We think the Government’s abandonment of its proposed formula for determining
    housing need is the correct decision. There remains a need for additional information
    about how the Government’s revised approach, announced in December 2020,
    might work in practice. This is especially important given the proposed urban uplift
    for 20 urban centres The Government should:
    • Provide an explanation of what criteria were used by the Government to both
    identify the 20 urban centres being subject to the uplift, and the scale of the uplift.
    The future of the planning system in England 103
    • Clarify the rationale for the local targets in those places subject to ‘urban uplift’,
    given the need to also consider geographical barriers such as the seas and rivers,
    Green Belt and other protected places, and the availability of brownfield sites. The
    Government should set out the impact on the Green Belt in areas where there will
    be urban uplift.

    • Reconsider the increase proposed for London, in light of its lack of feasibility,
    especially given the need to protect important Metropolitan Open Land, and the
    potential impact of COVID on patterns of commuting and work
    • Explain how it will ensure that its new approach does not lead to a significant
    reduction in the annual construction of dwellings in northern England and the
    Midlands (Paragraph 111)

Land capture and the funding of infrastructure

  1. We were disappointed that very little progress has been made in implementing the
    recommendations of our predecessor committee’s report into land value capture.
    The Government’s response to our social housing report did not engage with our
    renewed recommendations about reforming the Land Compensation Act 1961, and
    the promised consultation in the response for autumn 2020 has not appeared.
    We
    call upon the Government to act upon the whole range of recommendations in our
    predecessor committee’s Land Value Capture report. (Paragraph 154)
  2. The Government must clarify how it will replicate the binding nature of Section 106
    agreements and which parts of the approach will be retained
    . If they cannot be easily
    replicated, especially without creating additional complexity, then we recommend
    retaining Section 106 agreements. (Paragraph 161)

What Should Replace the Duty to Cooperate

61.The duty to cooperate between local authorities has operated imperfectly. However, we heard strong agreement there needed to be more cooperation between local authorities and that sub-national planning was a weakness of the current system. The Government should only abolish the duty to cooperate when more effective mechanisms have been put in place to ensure cooperation. Whilst the duty to cooperate remains in place, the Government should give combined authorities the statutory powers to oversee the cooperation of local authorities in their area. Longer-term reforms could include greater use of joint plans, of plans overseen by mayors and combined authorities, and of development corporations. The Government should seek to apply the lessons from successful strategic plans devised by local authorities in certain parts of the country in devising more effective mechanisms for strategic planning.

Beauty

203. The Government’s focus on beauty, whilst laudable, must not detract from other important aspects of design. The Government must ensure that its national design code, advice for local authorities about local design codes, and other aspects of design policy reflect the broadest meaning of design, encompassing function, place-making, and the internal quality of the housing as a place to live in, alongside its external appearance. Given the problems with defining beauty, and to ensure a wider approach to design, there should also not be a ‘fast track for beauty’. Many discussions about beauty and design are very localised, concentrating a specific site, building or street. We do not think these discussions can be incorporated into Local Plans covering an entire local authority. Therefore, the Government must clarify how the public will be able to offer views about developments at this small scale. This is doubly significant given the Government’s proposed reduction in the opportunities for people to comment on individual planning proposals.