Prue Bray, who is a Lib Dem Councillor in Berkshire, has pointed out a rather worrying statement on March 23rd by Conservative MP Greg Clark, the Coalition minister for Decentralisation. You can find it here.
It’s about ‘planning for growth’, which sounds good in terms of improving the economy, but there are some alarming bits for people concerned about over-development:
…..there is a pressing need to ensure that the planning system does everything it can to help secure a swift return to economic growth. This statement therefore sets out the steps the Government expects local planning authorities to take with immediate effect.
So new policies come into effect immediately.
Authorities should work together to ensure that needs and opportunities that extend beyond (or cannot be met within) their own boundaries are identified and accommodated in a sustainable way, such as housing market requirements that cover a number of areas, and the strategic infrastructure necessary to support growth.
So a council like Rochford may have to accept extra development to cover the needs of other areas such as, say, Southend? (this has happened before, but perhaps not as directly as now proposed.)
local planning authorities… should… consider the range of likely economic, environmental and social benefits of proposals; including long term or indirect benefits such as increased consumer choice, more viable communities and more robust local economies (which may, where relevant, include matters such as job creation and business productivity)
Does that phrase about increased consumer choice give more leverage for new supermarkets to be built? (some residents may welcome this, many others will be concerned about the viability of town centres)
…….To further ensure that development can go ahead, all local authorities should reconsider, at developers’ request, existing section 106 agreements that currently render schemes unviable, and where possible modify those obligations to allow development to proceed; provided this continues to ensure that the development remains acceptable in planning terms.
So even where developers have agreed to fund new open space, education or health provision or highways improvements, developers can pressurise councils to CANCEL these funding agreements?
Mr Clark is the Minister for Decentralisation. That should be about giving coucnils more power and freedom, not less.