The Strategic Planning and Conservation Manager presented the Council’s response to the Planning for the Future Government White Paper.
During the delivery of this presentation the following matters were highlighted for Members’ consideration:
· Officers were suggesting in the response that there was a need for further clarity about the proposals that had been made by the Government in the white paper and the implications for how planning would operate in future at the local level.
· The white paper proposed changes to the content required for Local Plans and the ways in which the plans would be developed in future.
· Whilst it generally took between six and eight years to develop a Local Plan under existing arrangements, the proposals in the white paper would require Councils to develop a new Local Plan within 30 months.
· The aim of the white paper was to make the planning system more responsive.
· Local Plans would no be made up of three zonings: growth areas, renewal areas and protection areas.
· Green belt policy would not be changing in respect of developments. However, further clarification was needed in relation to how green belt policy interacted with requirements for developments in protected areas.
· Under the terms proposed in the white paper the number of houses that would need to be developed in future in each area would be determined centrally rather than at the local level.
· The white paper also proposed that Development Plan policies for each Council would be determined at the central level rather than locally.
· There were proposals to abolish the duty to co-operate. The Council had acted on this duty in the past and clarification was needed about how the wider housing needs of the region would be addressed without this duty to co-operate in future.
· Officers were keen to ensure that the right to be heard at the end of the Local Plan process was not removed.
· The white paper proposed a new arrangement for infrastructure funding. Under this proposal Section 106 funding arrangements would be replaced with a new infrastructure levy, though it was unclear how this would be set. There was a risk that if the levy was not determined locally the levy would not cover the full costs of the infrastructure works required for that development.
· The white paper also proposed an increase in the size of developments that would trigger the requirement for affordable housing to be built as part of that development. Should this be agreed the target would be to provide affordable housing in developments of 40 or 50 houses rather than the 11 houses in the current threshold.
· Officers would need to start working on the Local Plan as soon as possible to ensure that the Council’s planning policy was compliant with future requirements. The outcomes of the initial stages of this work would be reported to Members at a meeting of the Planning Advisory Panel early in the new year.
Following the presentation of the report Members discussed a number of areas in detail:
· The meeting of the Planning Advisory Panel that had taken place the previous month which had provided Members with an opportunity to discuss the white paper in detail.
· The timeframes available for local authorities to respond to the Government in the consultation period for the white paper.
· The length of time that it took to develop a Local Plan and the benefits of having a shorter, more streamlined process.
· The potential consequences arising from housing numbers being determined at the central rather than local level.
· Media coverage of the existing planning system and delays that could occur in development. Members noted that delays could occur after planning permission had been granted because the applicant had chosen not to undertake any development work immediately.
· The valuable role of local democracy in relation to the planning process.
· The process that would be followed in order to determine whether a particular section of land should be designated as a growth area, a renewable area or a protected area.
· The benefits that would arise from using digital technology and visual maps in the planning process in the future.
· The potential for more detail to be provided about the implications of the proposals for the National Planning Policy Framework.
· The changes that had been proposed in respect of an infrastructure levy and the extent to which there was a risk that some local areas would miss out on funding if a national formula was applied to this.
· The demand in the community for social housing and the risks arising from changes to requirements for affordable housing to be built as part of smaller developments.
· The need for local planning policies and procedures to change and to be more responsive to local and national housing needs.
· The likelihood that further clarification would be provided by the Government following consideration of submissions that had been made in the national consultation process for the white paper.
1) Appendix A is submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as the Council’s Response to the Planning for the Future White Paper;
2) Appendix B is confirmed as the Council’s response to the Changes to the Planning System consultation; and
3) authority is granted to officers to begin the creation of a new Local Plan for Redditch.