The LGA has responded to a government consultation on planning policy and a new model design code.
House building will play a key part in the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and it is vital that councils have a strong voice in planning policy behind the bricks and mortar process.
New homes must be delivered through a locally led planning system with public participation at its heart, which gives communities the power to ensure new developments are of a high standard, built in the right places, and include affordable homes.
The LGA has made several recommendations to government in our response to its consultation on the draft revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and draft National Model Design Code (NMDC).
First, the timing and purpose of this consultation is premature as the Government’s response to the Planning White Paper consultation will require further consultation on changes to the NPPF, which will also need to align with any new planning legislation.
A timetable is needed as soon as possible to provide certainty about further planning consultations and overall progress on the Planning White Paper.
This will help councils already struggling with the impact of COVID-19 to undertake the transition process with minimal disruption.
Planning departments are already under-resourced and will need more funding to upskill officers and implement these planning reforms.
Between 2010/11 and 2017/18, there was a 37.9 per cent fall in net current expenditure on planning functions and planning departments, according to the National Audit Office.
Planning fees also do not cover the true cost of processing planning applications, with taxpayer subsidies running at nearly £180 million a year.
Local planning authorities will also need appropriate resources to undertake meaningful community engagement, which is crucial to good planning, and funding for any new burdens created by NPPF revisions and the draft NMDC being taken forward.
While we support an increased focus on design, we don’t believe that focusing on ‘beautiful’ development, which is subjective, or allowing ‘beautiful’ development to be fast-tracked, will lead to the quality homes and places communities want and need.
We have objected to proposals on permitted development rights (PDR), which erode councils’ ability to make locally led planning decisions. PDR also undermines NPPF policies and the aim of the NMDC to create sustainable, well-designed places.
As the Government’s own research has shown, PDR can create worse living environments, including overcrowding and lack of access to services and green space, which disproportionately affects black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, low-income households, older people, renters and those with disabilities.
With nearly two-thirds of councils in England aiming to be carbon neutral 20 years before the national target of 2050, we support the proposed addition of a presumption in favour of sustainable development and the critical need for climate change and mitigation.
However, we are still concerned that councils with a local plan that do not have a five-year housing land supply or are unable to meet the national Housing Delivery Test will be subject to the national ‘presumption in favour’ penalty – despite councils approving nine in 10 planning applications and having more than a million homes allocated in local plans.
Councils need powers to incentivise build-out of homes that have been approved and also to bring forward land that is allocated in local plans. They also need tools that will empower them to create great quality homes and places and stop poor development, rather than supporting those deemed to be ‘beautiful’.