Westminster Hall, 15th December – summarising this week’s debate on Planning for the Future
By Helen Tilton – Director, Cratus Bristol
“Right homes – right places – right type!” “Local engagement, local democracy!” “The algorithm doesn’t work!” These were broadly the cries heard at a Westminster Hall debate on the “Planning for the Future” White Paper this week, but for once this wasn’t an angry attack, rather an amicable orderly challenge that had a sense of cross-party togetherness, and refreshingly, saw some MPs challenge their own administrations.
Most of the speakers echoed many of the fundamental concerns that we know have been submitted in response to the White Paper.
There were requests for much more detail on the practicalities and implementation of the Paper’s ideas in order to give comfort to communities and to local government. There were also requests for the provision of more support for delivering consented development and addressing existing blockages before ‘tearing up’ the planning system. Suggestions included everything from further enabling One Public Estate, to addressing the skills shortages required to deliver infrastructure requirements.
The discrepancies in the general understanding of the needs of rural communities versus urban communities was made painfully clear, with passionate examples presented from Cornwall and across the North. That said, no-one seemed to disagree that across the country, housing mix and genuine affordability of all kinds is key; economic needs must be addressed; net zero carbon must be embedded into the system.
Housing Minister Chris Pincher reflected on climate change but directed everyone’s attention towards the Environment Bill and achieving net gain in biodiversity; the future homes standard driving a 75% improvement in carbon emissions from new housing stock; and the green homes grant to invest in and retrofit 600,000 homes. For many, however, these measures simply won’t go far enough.
MPs raised numerous concerns about the apparent substitution of local Councillor engagement and potential removal of local authority power (and thus community power) in favour of a more top-down approach. Calls were made for local ingenuity and enthusiasm to be enabled – to empower and support local communities as part of the neighbourhood and local plan process.
In summing up, Pincher acknowledged that it is for local councils and local authorities to determine what sorts of housing they need in their local communities, but glossed over concerns around a zoned approach and instead focused on the vision – of local authorities and communities having the ability to say where they want homes to be built, the types of homes they want them to be, what they are going to look like, what sort of infrastructure is going to support them, and what the controls will be.
As for concerns around “the algorithm”…just a day after the Westminster Hall debate it seems we are essentially back to where we started (the existing method, but with an additional step that applies a 35% uplift to the 20 largest cities and urban centres)!
If you would like to discuss how Cratus can support you and your development projects please contact Julian Seymour, Managing Director, Cratus Planning & Communications.