As MPs revolt against proposed planning changes, we’re at the heart of the debate
CPRE was mentioned seven times during the parliamentary debate on new planning proposals as MPs from all parties condemn the plans.
After many discussions with MPs sharing concerns about the impact that the government’s new proposals for the planning system will have on their local areas, it was no surprise to CPRE to see the signs of a backbench rebellion during the parliamentary debate on the topic last week.
The impassioned session saw politicians standing up to express grave misgivings about the proposals, which would see the planning system changed beyond recognition.
CPRE has been warning that the new plans, announced by the housing secretary Robert Jenrick in August 2020, would limit the voices of local people and hand developers free rein in determining new developments.
CPRE speaks out
Our campaigns and policy director, Tom Fyans, said that the debate saw ‘a torrent of criticism of the proposals, highlighting how they threaten local democracy, local green space and the ability of local communities to deliver affordable home’.
And the debate featured the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, branding these reforms as ‘contradictory to the levelling up agenda’ and demanding that the government ‘think again’.
Joining her in the wave of criticism was Rachael Maskell MP, Labour, who said: ‘This white paper removes local democracy, resident voices and investment in amenities and the environment. It’s a hand out for the development industry, not a hand up for those in housing need’.
And former foreign secretary and Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt added his voice: ‘What is on the table risks eroding local democracy, reducing affordable housing and encroaching on our beautiful countryside.
‘The government must think again.’
We’ve been working hard to raise our many concerns about the proposals, including undertaking new research and joining with other organisations to call for limits on these changes and it’s no surprise that our contributions have been recognised and referenced by so many MPs during the debate.
Questions for government
We’re calling on the government to revisit these plans and address some of the fundamental issues. After the housing secretary spoke to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions’ on 12 October 2020 about the proposals, Tom warned against using a clumsy algorithm for making changes that will impact whole communities and could change the face of our countryside forever.
‘The government needs to have a fundamental rethink of what it’s trying to achieve with these changes. What’s been set out will disempower local councils and make it more difficult for them to deliver genuinely affordable homes and protect precious green space and locally valued countryside.’
And as well as the risks to local democracy, we’re insistent that the focus isn’t shifted away from providing homes that are truly affordable – including for the key workers who’ve been so essential to the country during the coronavirus pandemic.
When the Local Government Association published new research on 7 October 2020 showing the impact that the reforms would have on the delivery of affordable homes, our chief executive Crispin Truman responded with alarm.
‘As the pandemic continues, we all know how critical key workers are. From care assistants to nurses, bus drivers to social workers, our rural communities would collapse without them. Yet we know 9 in 10 rural areas remain unaffordable to them.
‘This research amounts to a glimpse into a dark future where the prioritisation of ‘First Homes’ over other tenures could leave key workers further locked out of the very countryside communities they serve.’
What we’re doing now
We’ll continue to meet with MPs to discuss their concerns and collectively urge the housing secretary to rethink these damaging proposals. And our petition calling on the government to drop them and opt for a fairer, greener, more democratic set of plans has been signed by tens of thousands of people.
Want to be a part of it? Sign up to receive our monthly campaigns update, which will keep you posted on all our activity on this and our other areas of work, add your name to the petition now or donate to help us to keep us telling the government: we want a planning system that lets communities shape their future.