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Lib Dems Launch Campaign to Reject Government Planning Proposals

September 18, 2020 9:00 AM

Lib Dems Launch Campaign to Reject Government Planning Proposals

Wiltshire Liberal Democrats have launched a campaign to call on Wiltshire Council to pressure the Government to scrap its proposals to weaken planning controls. They say the proposed changes will do nothing to alleviate the housing crisis but will instead strip local authorities of the power to set local planning policies.

Changes to the way planning permission is given to developers were announced by communities secretary, Robert Jenrick last month, and could see new homes and hospitals granted automatic permission to be built in so-called 'growth' zones. The reforms could also lead to cases where local authorities would not be able to block developments in such zones.

The reforms will undermine the ability of councils to set local planning policies and determine planning applications. They have been condemned by experts such as the Town and Country Planning Association, who said they would undermine local democracy, and the Royal Institute of British Architects, who warned they would lead to slum housing.

The Lib Dems are calling for an urgent house building programme, with proposals to build 100,000 quality social homes for rent every year.

Locally, the Wiltshire Lib Dems want to take a holistic approach to development with a focus on building sustainable communities rather than housing estates - communities which include affordable homes, schools, shops, transport links, cycle routes, community facilities, open spaces and high environmental standards.

Members of the public can get involved by visiting Planning for the Future on the Government website, by emailing planningforthefuture@communities.gov.uk or by writing to Planning For the Future Consultation, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, 3rd Floor, Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF.

Cllr Sarah Gibson, Wiltshire Lib Dems Spokesperson for Planning and Housing said:

"The reforms are bad for our communities, the climate and local democracy. Local authorities will be stripped of the power to set local planning policies in line with the needs of their area and community. The move risks heightening inequality and disregards the fight to tackle climate change.

"The planning system is not the main cause of development delays or affordable housing shortfalls - 90% of applications are approved by local planning authorities. Delays are often caused by poorly designed proposals from developers, lack of planning capacity in local authorities and unclear government guidance.

"The Wiltshire Lib Dems want to take a holistic approach to development with a focus on building sustainable communities rather than housing estates. We want to create thriving communities. This would involve promoting Neighbourhood Plans that allocate development zones, community facilities, rights of way, open spaces and other features which can be used to shape development provided the county has met quotas for land supply and construction.

"We demand that the Conservative-led Council pressure the Government to scrap the plans.

"I have written to Cllr Toby Sturgis, Wiltshire Council's Cabinet Member for Planning, condemning the reforms."

Cllr Brian Mathew, Wiltshire Lib Dem Spokesperson for Climate Change and Innovation:

"The Conservative Government seem to have forgotten about the ongoing climate emergency. Ditching safeguards like environmental impact assessments* and curtailing local democratic scrutiny fuels fears that this is a developers charter.

"The plans pledge to make only new homes carbon neutral by 2050, when the UK's entire economy is already supposed to be carbon neutral as laid out in the Climate Change Act. If we are serious about tackling climate change the Government needs to be much more ambitious.

"A stronger planning system is vital to deal with the ongoing climate crisis. Weakening the system will benefit developers as it will mean building where they can maximize their profit, rather than where communities need."