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Agenda item

Council Response to the Government's Proposed Planning Reforms: 'Changes to the current planning system' and 'White Paper: Planning for the Future'

Minutes:

The Head of Planning and Development provided a presentation to the Committee and noted that the ‘Changes to the current planning system’ consultation would close on 1 October 2020, whilst the ‘White Paper: Planning for the Future’ consultation would close on 29 October 2020. The draft responses for each consultation were shown in Appendices 1 and 2 of the report.

 

The ‘Changes to the current planning system’ consultation included four measures for implementation; a new standard methodology, that at least 25% first homes would be secured as affordable housing, an 18-month temporary increase in the small sites threshold from 10 to 40 or 50 and the extension of the current ‘Permission in Principle’ rule to major development. The new standard methodology would increase the government’s housing target from 300k to 337k across England whilst the increase in the small sites threshold aimed to support Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in recovering from the impacts of Covid-19.

 

With regard to the ‘Planning for the Future: White Paper’ consultation, the main five proposed changes were outlined.

 

The first was to streamline the planning process through increased democracy within the plan-making stage. This would occur through the categorisation of land into one of growth, renewal or protection areas, with allocation to growth areas having equated to an outline permission, with specific rule-based policies enforced within growth and renewal areas. General and strategic policies would be contained within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and digital engagement would be promoted. The duty to co-operate would be abolished, with the tests of soundness to be replaced with a single Sustainable Development Test. A time limit of 30 months would be enforced for the creation of Local Plans and the Reviews.

 

The second was to adopt a digital-first approach to modernise the planning process.

 

The third involved an increased focus on design and sustainability, of which proposals of ‘beautiful design’ would be fast-tracked. New energy efficiency standards would be set out within building regulations, and policies to achieve carbon neutral development would be outlined within the NPPF. The environmental assessments being conducted would be made simpler, with the responsibility to deliver within the design guidance placed with the planning authority.

 

The fourth proposal was that the Community Infrastructure Levy would be replaced by a Consolidated Infrastructure Levy (CIL) that included affordable housing, the removal of CIL exemptions and greater flexibility for Local Authorities in spending the monies.

 

The fifth would ensure that more land would be available for development, with housing requirements to be set nationally. Any Local Authority that failed to deliver the required housing figure would be faced with government penalties.

 

Reference was made to the financial and resources implications, increased centralisation, the lack of time for Local Authorities to respond, effect on house prices within Maidstone and the susceptibility of the amended CIL to fluctuations in house building.

 

The Committee expressed general support for the draft responses presented, with amendments suggested during the debate. There were concerns that the proposed increase to the small sites threshold would enable larger developers to submit more applications to negate the affordable housing contribution responsibility. Several Members expressed concern over the government’s proposals, with reference made to the increased housing figure arising from the new standard methodology, the penalties for Local Authorities that failed to meet the housing requirements and loss of local control through centralisation.

 

During the debate, consideration was given to whether the response drafted by the Chair of the Council’s Biodiversity and Climate Change Working Group (BDCCWG) should be considered by the Committee. It was felt that as the response had not yet been approved by the BDCCWG, it would not be appropriate for consideration within the draft responses shown at this time. 

 

RESOLVED: That

 

1.  Delegated authority be given to the Head of Planning to submit the responses as shown within Appendix 1 to the report, inclusive of the comments provided by the Committee, to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government with regard to the ‘Changes to the current planning system consultation (2020)’; and

 

2.  The draft responses to the ‘White Paper: Planning for the Future’ as shown within Appendix 2 to the report, be amended by the Head of Planning with consideration given to the Committee’s comments, after which the responses would be brought back to the next meeting of the Committee, be agreed.

 

Note: During this item the Committee adjourned for a period of 13 minutes due to technical difficulties, from 7.57 p.m. to 8.10 p.m.

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