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Planning & Amenities White Paper Consultation

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The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have opened the following consultations:

Should you wish to respond to either of these, details can be found within the documents.

The Parish Council held a public meeting via Zoom on Thursday the 8th of October to discuss responses to the latest consultation about the proposed changes to the planning system in England, minutes of this meeting can be seen here.

The meeting was called primarily to allow councillors to agree the responses formed by the Planning & Ameniities committee and we had a robust debate about some of the responses before agreeing the final form.

To summarise our response:

  • The council doesn’t believe the current planning system is the cause of the lack of house building in England. The proposals as set out will encourage new plans on newly available land but as long as developers only wish to build a certain type of dwelling in a market where they are sure to sell they will not build. As an example we already have a backlog of nearly 10 thousand units that have not been started in Wokingham Borough. This will only increase this number by many thousands whilst blighting large areas of land which will be earmarked for development that never comes or fails to address the other severe problems with infrastructure we face in the area.
  • The government definition of affordable housing is not fit for purpose. By assuming that all that all that is needed is a change in the ratio of supply and demand and relying on the market to correct things, they are condemning our communities to many years of stagnation. The  issues of families finding decent first homes, of elderly people struggling to downsize and having to move away, of large areas of land being wasted whilst inappropriate housing is developed on the site whilst the types of units that are desperately needed go unbuilt, will continue.
  • The proposals may well make more land available and may reduce the price of development land, which is a major component of house prices. However this will be a long term effect that will only marginally address the issue of genuine affordability of housing even in the long term.
  • We felt that where developers could not or would not provide solutions to existing community needs that the local authorities should ensure that the aims of the Local Plan are met by encouraging partnerships with developers or by direct financing of developments.  There was also a concern that the proposals would mean that public money might be wasted by the proposed discount system which would ignore the local authorities ability to borrow money at commercially advantageous rates.
  • We are concerned that the ‘aim’ to ensure affordable housing ratios are kept as near to present as possible will not be met and an actual reduction in suitable genuinely affordable  homes will result.
  • We are sceptical of the design component of the proposal.  This looks flimsy and lacks content.  We would have much rather seen an emphasis on specific parameters such as the suitability of the unit for the local population (ie an emphasis on smaller affordable units, social housing , separation of motor traffic from residential areas, encouragement of public transport and non-motorised journeys, carbon-neutral/negative housing etc) rather than a desire for ‘beautification’ which seemed meaningless.

Finally, the parish council does not feel that the current planning system is the cause of England’s housing problems.  It may be complex and often opaque but the system is understood by local government and developers alike and has actually operated to create a situation where there are  more new permissions to build than houses actually started.  The dangers contained in the white paper far outweigh the benefits.