Liberal Democrats welcome South Glos Council’s decision to oppose Government planning changes


House Building

South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats have welcomed the decision of the Council unanimously to pass a motion opposing the Conservative Government’s proposed decimation of the planning system.

Described as a “developers’ charter”, the newest proposals from the Conservative Government would tear up planning rules and give developers virtual free-reign to build what they like where they like.

South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrat councillors proposed a motion last night and asked fellow councillors from the Conservative and Labour Parties to support it.

Following negotiations, both the Conservative and the Labour groups agreed to support a revised version of the Liberal Democrat motion, which was passed by the council unanimously yesterday.

The motion, proposed by Councillor Jayne Stansfield, Liberal Democrat Lead Member on the Development Management Committee, calls on South Gloucestershire Council to make representations to the Government’s consultation on its, “Planning for the Future” White Paper.

Moving the motion, Cllr Jayne Stansfield described the Government’s proposals as, “a serious threat to a democratic and transparent planning system” and asked that the Council raises concerns with central Government.

Cllr Jayne Stansfield, proposer of the motion said:

“I would question many of the assumptions made in this white paper – there is the idea that councils are reluctant to grant planning permission, but here in South Glos we grant 93% of planning applications. According to the LGA there are over 1million houses with planning permission which have not been built.”

 “I am very concerned that the Government appears to be proposing tearing up so many safeguards contained within the current planning system.

 “These proposals remove most of the power of local councils to decide what gets built in their area, they remove the power of the public to have a say on what happens near them, they will massively reduce the amount of affordable housing and vital infrastructure that gets built and they pay little attention to the climate emergency. It is difficult to see anything in these proposals which deserves to be supported.

“We need to make sure that we’re keeping the public involved in the planning process for as long as possible, but these proposals reduce the ability of members of the public to have their say, to something that happens at a very early stage, possibly decades before anything get built.”

Cllr Adrian Rush, Liberal Democrat Lead Member for Planning, Transport and Strategic Environment said:

“We are facing a housing crisis, but the planning system is not the problem. Across the country over a million houses have planning permission but haven’t been built. The Government now wants to loosen the rules so much that developers will be able to build practically whatever they want. We need to tell the Government that these proposals will be a disaster for South Gloucestershire.”

Cllr Claire Young, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on South Gloucestershire Council added:

Up and down the country, councils of all political persuasions have been passing similar motions, opposing these deeply worrying proposals. They would massively reduce the power of councils and the local communities they serve, to decide the future of their local areas.

“I am pleased that the Labour and Conservative groups agreed to work with us to support a motion which reflects the very real concerns that councillors of all parties have about what the Conservative Government is threatening to do to the planning system.”

Notes:

The Government’s “Planning for the Future” White Paper can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future

The text of the agreed amended motion is as follows:

Motion on Planning for the Future

Moved by Councillor Jayne Stansfield (Liberal Democrat) and seconded by Councillor Steve Reade (Conservative) and Councillor Sam Scott (Labour).

This Council notes: 

  • the Government’s “Planning for the Future” consultation;
  • that, alongside efficiency of the process, any reforms to the planning system should prioritise public engagement, the delivery of quality housing, environmental protections, and measures to meet our climate change targets;
  • that a consultation response has already been submitted to the Government consultation on “Changes to the current planning system”, the proposals within which would result in an unsustainable new housing number for South Gloucestershire which would undermine the sustainability of planned new development;
  • that South Gloucestershire already plans to deliver substantial growth. We are already granting around 93% of Planning Applications, principally on allocated development sites. This has brought consents for thousands of new homes and land for thousands of new jobs in existing and brand-new communities across the district.

This Council recognises:

  • the principle within the proposed reforms for a greater emphasis on quality of design would benefit communities across South Gloucestershire, and is supportive of that. Design has historically not been at the heart of the existing planning system; 
  • the positive emphasis in the reforms on supporting planning authorities to pursue a plan-led process and that development should be based on a comprehensive set of policies that include design and master-planning;
  • that the removal of the five-year land supply requirement would support South Gloucestershire in better defending communities from damaging speculative developments.

This Council, however, also recognises:

  • that the vast majority of planning applications are ultimately approved;
  • that the Local Government Association estimates that over a million new homes have planning permission, but remain unbuilt;
  • that the planning system is not the cause of the country’s housing crisis;
  • that while the concept of providing a guide on what land could be used for earlier in the process is helpful, the reduction of any future Local Plans to a map showing the three development zones is overly simplistic and could potentially frustrate the ability of planning authorities to make individual decisions on planning applications;
  • that these proposals reduce democratic accountability, public scrutiny and participation, restricting the democratic right of residents to have their say on applications in their communities to comments made at the initial plan-making stage;
  • that the proposed changes could potentially favour development interests over those of local communities;
  • that the reforms restrict a planning authorities’ ability to set local planning policies in line with the needs of their area and community aspirations, undermining the plan-led system, disempowering councils and communities;
  • that replacing the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 payments with centrally imposed housing targets and a national levy, will likely result in less money for affordable housing, sustainable transport and other critical infrastructure;
  • that the effort to speed up applications risk weakening the requirement altogether for the environmental assessments process at a site-specific level;
  • that, while proposals aim for new homes to meet the Government’s climate change and environmental objectives, and amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework to mitigate and adapt to climate change in line with national 2050 net-zero commitment, there needs to be a distinct mechanism to deal with the climate crisis and we call on Government to ensure that the Future Homes Standard addresses this;
  • the proposals in their current state do not do enough to deliver affordable housing to those most in need;
  • that the proposals do not make reference to archaeology or heritage, but this Council would want to see those considerations come to the fore.

This Council therefore resolves:

  • to ensure these points are presented in a robust response to the consultation, which will be available for feedback by all members through email prior to submission to government.

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