Lewis sets out reforms to boost neighbourhood plans

1 Aug 14
Planning minister Brandon Lewis has set out proposals to quicken the development of neighbourhood plans as part of further government reforms to encourage housebuilding.

By Richard Johnstone | 1 August 2014

Planning minister Brandon Lewis has set out proposals to quicken the development of neighbourhood plans as part of further government reforms to encourage housebuilding.

Lewis said the action would encourage more areas to develop the local plans, which were introduced as part of an overhaul of the planning system. These are intended to allow communities to set out areas for development, including for houses, which are then voted on in a referendum.

Yesterday’s Technical consultation on planning consultation said that, following the experience of the more than 1,000 communities that have already used these plans, the process would be quickened. Changes include requiring local planning authorities to decide whether to designate certain neighbourhood areas within 10 weeks, and removing the minimum 6-week consultation period.  

Lewis said these changes would build upon the reforms already introduced.

‘Since 2010 we’ve made significant strides in reforming our planning system from one of draconian top-down targets, to one where local people are in charge and it’s working well,’ he said.

‘Last year alone, planning permission was granted for 216,000 new homes. ‘Today’s proposals will help scrap even more red tape and make it even easier to get the homes and shops communities want built, while at the same time breathing new life into our vital industries.’

The British Property Federation welcomed the proposals, which also included plans to introduce a ‘planning pyramid’ to determine which applications needed the most attention.

However, the group added the government should consider the introduction of a statutory duty on councils to develop local plans.
BPF chief executive Liz Peace said the new proposals were targeted towards a number of specific issues that can cause obstacles in the planning process. ‘While some of the suggested changes are small, they are also important, and if turned into legislation could make a tangible difference to the system and speed-up much needed development in the UK.’

However, councils said the planning changes did not give them enough power to stop the increase in the number of high-street betting shops.

Clyde Loakes, the Local Government Association’s environment and housing board vice chair said planning controls were not inteneded to make life difficult for businesses but to ensure new shops and businesses benefit an area and the people who live there.

‘Councils and their communities have repeatedly called for powers to tackle problems caused by the proliferation of betting shops. Placing betting shops in their own use class alongside payday lenders will give local areas greater powers to protect high streets from further betting shop clustering, which is a step in the right direction,' he said.

‘However, under these plans councils should be given powers to force rival chains to reapply for permission so that local areas can ensure their high streets are served by a diverse mix of shops and businesses. At the moment these reforms do not help areas already suffering from the saturation of betting shops and payday lenders. With some betting firms indicating they plan to close hundreds of stores this year, these proposals would allow a rival betting company to simply take over a vacant shop without needing planning permission.’


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