Key housing sector bodies have expressed their concern over new planning reforms soon to be released by the government.
Criticism has already begun to mount after some of the reforms were laid out in a Sunday Telegraph article by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, following on from Boris Johnson’s Build, Build, Build speech.
The government’s own research has found that homes built outside the planning system are typically worse for wellbeing and health.
It is thought that there is going to be three types of application: Growth, Renewal, and Protected.
‘Growth’ will be the easiest for developers to build, with planning permission almost guaranteed.
‘Renewal’ also has the ‘permission in principle’ approach, but development will be limited in the ‘Protected’ category in order to safeguard the Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
With all developments, it is thought residents will get less of a say when a scheme is going through, especially in the ‘Growth’ category.
The government will also introduce measures to end sending letters to all impacted residents, and “tree-lined streets” will be implemented on all new developments.
The CPRE (the countryside charity) has accused the government of “gross oversimplification”.
Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at CPRE, said: “The government’s intended reforms sound like a gross oversimplification of the planning system.
“First and foremost, our planning process must respond to the needs of communities, both in terms of providing much-needed affordable homes and other vital infrastructure, and green spaces for our health and wellbeing.
“The planning process as it stands may not be perfect, but instead of deregulating planning, the government must invest in planning.
“Quality development needs a quality planning system, with community participation at its heart.”
Fyans continued: “The Secretary of State has claimed that these planning reforms will still be very much ‘people-focused’, but that flies in the face of what has been outlined today by the government.
“We eagerly await more details and will be joining forces with a range of other housing, planning, and environmental campaigning bodies to push back hard on the deregulation agenda, which has never been the answer to the question of how best to boost economic growth.”
There was also criticism from the building community. Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “The Prime Minister has said we need to ‘build, build, build’ our way to recovery, and a flexible and responsive planning system is essential to deliver this aim.
“Local small builders have an important role to play in delivering the high-quality homes the country needs, but 42% of small builders have difficulty engaging with the planning system.
“New measures that make the planning system quicker and more affordable are welcome, but it is vital that high standards in design and build are not compromised as a result, and that any overhaul doesn’t in fact add further delays.”
James Jamieson, the chair of the Local Government Association, said the motion of planning as a barrier to housebuilding is “a myth”.
“Nine in 10 planning applications are approved by councils, while more than a million homes given planning permission in the last decade have not yet been built,” he said.
“Only last week,the government’s own independent report warned of the worse quality of homes not delivered through the planning system.
“We urge the government to heed these warnings and not further sideline the planning process.”
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the NHF, said: “Our planning system must be a way of creating affordable, inclusive, sustainable, and beautiful communities. We support reforms that would encourage this, but would be concerned about further deregulation that could in fact lead to the exact opposite.
“We’re looking forward to seeing more detail on the government’s proposals, and want to work with ministers and officials to shape them.
“Of course, we can’t forget that it isn’t just about how many homes we build, but also how affordable they are. While planning reform could help, only a once-in-a-generation public investment will allow us to build the amount of social housing the country needs.
“As well as providing a secure, affordable home for the people who need one most, this would also help the government to meet its building targets and support the economy to bounce back from the coronavirus crisis.”