The Times Gets it Wrong no Planning White Paper U Turn

The Times typically bad reporting on planning

Homeowners will still be able to object to individual planning applications after the government confirmed a U-turn on its intended reforms to the system.

Homeowners will still be able to object to individual planning applications after the government confirmed a U-turn on reforms to the system.

Ministers had planned to replace the planning application process with a zonal system and mandatory housebuilding targets, stripping homeowners of their right to object.

The Times reported in September that the shake-up of planning laws was to be abandoned after a backlash from voters and Conservative MPs in southern England. A change of approach from the government, however, was contained in a submission to the Lords built environment committee.

In the report it said: “There will be a continuing role for public consultation as part of the planning application process. Even where the broad principle of development is agreed . . . all the details would still need to be consulted on with communities and statutory consultees, and approved by officers or committees where appropriate.”

The government’s submission added: “Our reforms will give communities a greater voice from the start of the planning process … We also want to see more democratic accountability, with communities having a more meaningful say on the development schemes which affect them, not less.”

In response to the move, Tom Fyans, director of campaigns at the countryside charity the CPRE, said: “It appears the government now genuinely understands the need for local communities to have a powerful voice in planning decisions. These are encouraging signs that suggest a fundamental change of approach when it comes to determining what gets built where.”

The Lords report warned that ministers would not hit their target of building 300,000 new homes a year unless they stopped dithering over planning reforms. The cross-party committee said that uncertainty and delays in overhauling the system had had a “chilling effect” on housebuilding.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, chairwoman of the committee, said: “The most important aspect in terms of housing supply is planning. Frankly all the twisting and turning over reform has had a chilling effect, creating uncertainty for housebuilders and planners.

“The government needs to bite the bullet and actually build housing of all types and tenures.”

The report said: “The challenges facing the housing market have been well documented: too many people are living in expensive, unsuitable, poor-quality homes. To address these complex challenges in the long term it is necessary to increase housing supply now.”

Local councils should be forced to come up with a plan for their area, Neville-Rolfe said, as more than half do not have an up-to-date strategy for building more homes.

Help to Buy, the government’s flagship homeownership scheme, is criticised for pushing up prices. The £29 billion cost of the scheme would “be better spent on increasing housing supply”, the committee said.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We share the ambition to reform the planning system to meet the demand for more high-quality homes and create a fairer housing market. We delivered more than 216,000 homes in England in 2020-21, well above the 186,500 forecast for the whole of the UK, and are investing a further £12 billion in affordable housing over the next five years.”

What this shows is no u-turn – it simply was the Planning White Paper was so badly drafted the point wasnt clear. In zoning system you still need permission for a design, unless, as now, a design code would grant you permission on compliant design. This is simply doing what the government botched in drafting the White Paper – selling what a zoning system is and how it works. In fact this is the first full indication from Gove that he is not ditching a zoning system – whilst spinning to Nimby backbencher that it is a u-turn. It isnt.

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