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
Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the LGiU, said:
“The planning system is one of the fundamental pillars of local democracy, allowing communities to help shape the physical structure of the places they live. Councillors are the most important link between communities and that system. Our survey with the National Trust shows that many councillors feel that this democratic tool is at risk of being undermined.”
Ingrid Samuel, Historic Environment Director at the National Trust, said:
“It’s now almost 5 years after the Government’s planning framework was adopted, so it’s worrying that councillors feel it hasn’t delivered the localism that was promised. If ministers are serious about Local Plans being at the heart of the planning system, then they should invest in council planning teams and use the Housing White Paper to give them the tools to deliver good quality housing in the right places.”
About the Local Government Information Unit
The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) is a think tank and membership body with 200 councils and other organisations subscribing to its networks. It works to strengthen local democracy and put citizens in control of their own lives, communities and local services. For more information, visit lgiu.org.
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About the National Trust
The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces, and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. More than 120 years later, these values are still at the heart of everything the charity does. Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 775 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. More than 20 million people visit every year, and together with 4.5 million members and over 62,000 volunteers, they help to support the charity in its work to care for special places forever, for everyone. For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk
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