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Chesterfield Liberal Democrats Response to the Conservative’s White Paper “Planning for the Future”

October 31, 2020 7:08 PM
By Maggie Kellman

Planning for the FutureWe have serious concerns about the proposed reform of the planning process outlined by the Government in the White Paper "Planning for the Future". Although the stated aim is to "streamline and modernise the planning process" it is essentially a charter for developers as there will be less public involvement, less investment required of developers and less affordable housing.

The Conservative Government propose that they should hand out compulsory house building targets from London, to each Local Authority and create local zones in which development is automatically approved.

Yet under this new system no one will be able to have a say about most building projects and they will simply be waved through. Residents will only get the chance to comment when a local plan is drawn up that designates the areas that they live in or care about into one of three categories. Land will be classed as Protected (such as Green Belt); Renewal (such as areas like the former Staveley Steel Works); or Growth areas (such as the fields at Mastin Moor and Woodthorpe). Developers, given the complete freedom to choose, will of course prefer to build on green fields as it is easier and more profitable to do so.

In addition, hidden in the detail of the reforms it emerges that significant additional costs will fall on our already stretched council budgets. As Local Plans will be required to grant permission in principle, the Council is effectively being asked to cover the costs of preparing and determining an outline planning application for all allocated sites as part of preparing their Local Plan. But these are costs that would normally be borne by a developer/landowner.

Overall, we believe that the proposed reforms would be to the detriment of local communities as they would:

  • Reduce public engagement and consultation in the production of Local Plans and reduce or remove the right for residents to object to subsequent planning applications near them

  • Grant automatic planning permission for developers to build on land identified as 'for growth'

  • Remove section 106 payments and the Community Infrastructure Levy for infrastructure, to the disadvantage of Chesterfield

  • Reduce the delivery of more genuinely affordable homes, whereas the focus should be on speeding up that delivery to meet the increasing demand

  • Weaken the importance of environmental assessments and ignore the urgent need for climate change mitigation in the construction of new homes.

As Liberal Democrats we believe that future developments in Chesterfield need to achieve specific sustainability standards so that by 2030 all new homes are net zero carbon and promote active travel, maximise green open space, and ensure adequate provision of affordable housing. None of these aspects have been given any priority in Planning for the Future.

We urge Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to think again.