Key committee agrees with CPRE: planning proposals could risk local voice

10th June 2021

As the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee warns the government that it remains ‘unpersuaded’ by the new planning proposals, we agree and re-assert: the plans are ‘reckless.’

The government has claimed that its intentions for a new planning system – the toolkit that controls what gets built and where – would help speed up new buildings where they’re needed. But an influential Commons select committee has added its voice to ours in opposition, saying it isn’t persuaded that the plans would produce a cheaper, quicker and more democratic planning system.

The Committee has released a new report looking into the future of the planning system, and their observations show the impact that CPRE campaigning has had on this issue. In the report, the Committee members add their voice to the rising chorus of opposition to the government proposals.

The report warns that it remains unclear how the plans would help to meet the stated intentions of speeding up building and engaging local people – and instead calls for elements to be reconsidered or more information added.

A rising tide of concern

The misgivings of this important committee come as no surprise to us at CPRE, nor to the many others with whom we have been raising our voices in concern at the plans.

As our chief executive, Crispin Truman, says, ‘the government’s reckless and untested changes to the planning system’ have been raising concerns from ‘MPs, the public and civil society.’

We’re passionate about building the right kinds of new homes for those who need them most, and since the controversial plans were first set out by the government in August 2020 we’ve been, in Crispin’s words:

‘… urging ministers to radically rethink the proposals so that we can create the low carbon, well-designed homes, green spaces and places of the future.’

It’s clear from the concerns raised in the report that the efforts of CPRE at both local and national levels – including giving evidence to the Committee – have hit home, with numerous references to CPRE and our research included in the write-up.

Local people must not be forgotten

We’re especially pleased to see the chair of the Committee, Clive Betts MP, emphasise the importance of ensuring that local people have a voice in planning decisions – an area on which we’re especially passionate.

Mr Betts said:

‘Public engagement is critical in planning – and our report stresses the need for the government to really get to grips with how it can best involve local people in the planning process. This is essential if any changes to the planning system are to be a success.’

We’re proud to have played a part in calling for this crucial part of our national planning toolkit to be retained, especially when the role of local democracy stands to be sidelined in the new proposals.

Crispin warns that under the government’s plans, ‘we could see democratic input halved and local people stripped of the right to have a say on individual developments.’

New homes that are truly affordable

The Committee’s report also calls for affordable housing planning agreements to continue in any new plans, and we agree. Just building new housing is not enough; our research shows that we need to see a much better mix of new homes built in rural areas.

Crispin notes that it’s timely to see the Committee emphasising an urgency around new affordable housing commitments: ‘If these are lost, we fear the already paltry supply of much needed new social rented homes will dry up completely in many rural areas.’

This would leave many rural dwellers high and dry – including many of the key workers on whom we saw the government heap praise for their hard work during the coronavirus pandemic.

And don’t forget the environment

At CPRE, we’re always considering the impact of any new development on the environment and climate crisis. The Committee notes that they found scant reference to this in the government’s plans, with Mr Betts commenting that this was one of many issues that weren’t addressed in the proposals and on which they’re asking the government for more information and consultation.

This is an issue we had noticed, too, when it became clear that the changes to planning could collide with and undermine the brand new Environment Bill announced in May 2021.

Crispin summarises what we – and, it seems, the Committee – believe needs to happen next.

‘As the chorus of opposition continues to grow, we’re calling on the government to radically rethink its changes to the planning system. What we need are clear targets in planning for tackling the climate and nature emergencies and enhancing and protecting our countryside, rather than a narrow obsession with building more and more housing, regardless of whether that housing meets local needs.

‘By encouraging local people to take part in planning, holding developers to account and driving up build-out rates, we can begin to tackle the housing crisis head-on.’

Now it’s time to add your voice

It’s never been clearer: our campaigning is taking hold. CPRE is influencing what happens next, and we’ll have all the more impact with you on board.

To tell the government you want changes to these reckless plans, add your signature to our ever-growing petition now. And to connect more with how the changes might impact you locally, find your local CPRE group and ask what campaigning they’re doing to make sure the new plans get the best deal for your area.

As ever, your donations will help us to keep making enough noise that it continues to be impossible for the government to ignore us. Thank you for your support.

An array of rooftops in different shades of brown and grey
Rooftops in Portland, Dorset Belinda Fewings / Unsplash

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