The Ministry published a 76-page randomly but lavishly illustrated White Paper in August 2020. Mr Boris Johnson PM, in a preface to the proposals, alleged that it was the Town and Country Planning system in England that was in some way responsible for the extremely poor house building record over the last decade. We pointed out that since developers were holding a land bank of some 400,000 houses, the Planning System was an unlikely cause of any building log jam. We queried what successful planning credentials for which the PM was renowned but despite an unpromising Preface, looked creatively and in details at the proposals.
We agreed with the proposal that Local Plans could realistically be prepared within the 30-month recommended period but although Neighbourhood plans were respected, there was no proposal to establish what weight they or conservation areas might have.
We did not agree that failure over the years in building enough houses to satisfy demand warranted a complete change in the planning processes.
The proposed changes in the system were that the Local Plans should designate three areas as follows: those suitable for substantial development, renewal areas and protected areas. Opposition to applications for outline planning permission within the first two areas would be substantially curtailed. We considered this to be a dangerous affront to legitimate local concerns
The report exaggerated the number of homes alleged to have been built in the previous year. The proposal involved ensuring Local Authorities secure specific levels of house building. We had reservations about this, particularly that using decision making software to dictate housing demands was inappropriate for greatly diverse areas.
The Paper correctly identified the need for developers to contribute to local infrastructure upon which their development would place burdens. The proposal for a general Infrastructure Levy could allow Local Authorities to provide the infrastructure if they could borrow on the strength of receiving the levy. To this extent the proposal was welcomed with the reservation that such levies can deter developers.
We answered the majority of 24 detailed questions, some with sub questions. The detail of all these can be found in a copy of our submission.