A survey of over 1,200 ward councillors in England, carried out by the Local Government Information Unit, and commissioned by the National Trust, reveals councillors’ view that the planning system works in the interests of developers over councils and local communities.
- Over half of councillors say that sites that are not in line with the Council’s plan are being approved for housing in their area.
- There are also concerns about Green Belt release and the loosening of the planning system through the introduction of permitted development rights for home extensions, office to residential use conversion, barn conversions and other changes of use.
- Councillors also have concerns about the under-resourcing of planning teams.
In debates on the future of the planning system the views of councillors are often overlooked – and yet, as local decision-makers, and an important link with local communities, they have an essential role to play in ensuring development is sensitive to the needs of an area.
Housing White Paper
There are concerns the new Housing White Paper, expected later this month, could make matters worse, if it sets rigid housing numbers for local plans which don’t take account of local factors such as Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
As the Government puts the final touches to the Housing White Paper, the National Trust and LGiU hope that Ministers will take a number of sensible steps to improve the confidence that councillors have in the way the planning system works, including:
- More resources for Local Planning Authorities to help get local plans in place
- Stronger Government backing for councils setting design standards
- A smart approach to meeting housing need which allows councils to recognise local constraints and focuses development in the most appropriate places