Friday 7 August 2020

Cross party campaign needed to oppose Jenrick's assault on the community's already limited say on new developments

The Wembley Park skyline from Barnhill
Residents of Brent may feel frustrated that their opposition to developments in South Kilburn, Alperton, Wembley Central, Sudbury, Queensbury and Wembley Park have been swept aside at Planning Committee and may think there is already a 'planning free for all' in the borough, but if government proposals go through the situation will become worse with that Committee's role curtailed.

London Councils said yesterday:
London Councils has stated its strong opposition to “any moves towards a planning free-for-all”. 

Responding to the government’s white paper on planning policy, London Councils expressed concern that the changes will severely restrict boroughs’ ability to uphold quality standards and to ensure affordable housing targets are met.

The cross-party group, which represents all 32 London boroughs and the City of London Corporation, is opposed to eroding councils’ control over development in their area through zoning arrangements.

These arrangements risk mirroring the lack of control local authorities have over notoriously poor-quality permitted development rights (PDR) schemes. PDR often produces low-quality residential accommodation in unsuitable locations, with no requirement for affordable housing, and a loss of employment space.

Boroughs are particularly alarmed by the white paper’s proposed abolition of Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy agreements, which local authorities use to make sure development includes affordable homes. Weakening council planning powers will also make it more difficult to push developers on reducing carbon emissions, undermining national climate change measures.

Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Housing & Planning, said:

These changes are potentially disastrous for Londoners and could reduce the amount of affordable housing built in the capital.  

London is suffering the most severe homelessness crisis in the country and the chronic shortage of affordable housing is at the heart of this. It would be a massive step backwards if the government undermined boroughs’ ability to ensure new development in London includes affordable homes. 

Councils play a crucial role in the planning system, safeguarding our communities’ long-term interests and upholding quality standards. While we support ambitions to build more housing, we strongly oppose any moves towards a planning free-for-all – which would lead to lower quality and fewer affordable homes in London. 

We will be sharing our concerns with ministers. Councils  certainly need more detailed information and reassurance from the government over how these changes would work.

London Councils has repeatedly highlighted inadequate funding, rather than the planning system, as the key factor explaining the capital’s housing pressures.

Boroughs grant around 50,000 planning approvals each year and there are approximately 305,000 new homes in the capital's development pipeline. Boroughs do not have – and are not being given – powers to make developers build out planning permissions. Instead, the white paper would remove their ability to ensure good quality, sustainable development with sufficient affordable housing.

There are currently 243,000 London households on council housing waiting lists. Over 58,000 homeless households are placed in temporary accommodation by London boroughs. The capital accounts for two-thirds of homelessness in England.

To address the shortage of affordable housing in the capital, London Councils is seeking increased government investment and improved support for council housebuilding. This requires an end to all national restrictions on the use of Right to Buy receipts, so that every penny raised from council house sales can be reinvested in replacements, and confirmation of long-term social rent levels.

London’s council housing stock is under considerable pressure. 287,000 London council houses have been sold through Right to Buy since the policy’s introduction in 1980. In 2016-17, 3,138 council homes were sold in London and only 1,445 replaced.

Commenting on the proposed abolition of Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) agreements, Cllr Shama Tatler (Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Property and Planning) and currently a candidate for Labour's NEC, said on Twitter:

S106 whilst a technical element of planning not only secures affordable housing commitments on a development but also a wide range of infrastructure guarantees AND locks in commitments to local employment opportunities

Under these streamlined reforms in planning what is there to ensure delivery? Timely delivery? Can't see how developers will be pushed for delivery after permission is granted. 

Commenting  on Robert Jenrick's claim of a 5 year delivery delay in developments she said:

Nearly 90% of all planning applications are determined within 13weeks. Large schemes rightly need time and scrutiny to make sure they contribute to the placemaking of an area, affordable housing and infrastructure.

A proposal that the requirement for a proportion of affordable housing be provided should be raised to only apply to developments of 50 units and over she pointed out:

A large proportion of site allocations and schemes in Brent are on small sites with less that 50 homes. This is going hugely impact affordable housing delivery.

We can expect to see planning applications for 49 units as developers maximise their profits from market price housing.

In an exchange with me on Twitter, Cllr James Denselow, currently Chair of Brent Planning Committee, even doubted that the Committee would continue to exist under the proposals:

The website ONLondon LINK reported Green Party AM Sian Berry's comment which will be of interest to people on Brent's estates, particularly St Raphael's:

Green Party AM and mayoral candidate Siân Berry was also critical, saying an “imbalance of power” in a planning system “already heavily weighted towards big developers over local communities” will be made even worse by centralised “top down targets” and reduced scrutiny and rights.

“People living on estates in London will be chilled to see whole areas proposed to be set aside for ‘growth’ or ‘renewal’ without a single mention of the rights of people already living there,” Berry said. “These new proposals don’t even set out whether residents will have a real say over the areas where they have made their homes and communities being earmarked for instant planning permission.”

Liberal Brent Councillor, Anton Georgiou (Alperton) told Wembley Matters:
Planning decisions have a massive impact on local communities. It cannot be a free for all allowing rich developers to force massive tower blocks and regeneration in our area. There must be local scrutiny and local control to help protect our community and ensure the concerns of residents are heard throughout the decision making process. But also to ensure that the right type of genuinely affordable and social homes are being built. These top down changes are wrong and must be stopped.

1 comment:

Philip Grant said...

I have not looked at the Government's White Paper yet (I have another planning matter on my mind at the moment), but I did hear Robert Jenrick talking about these proposals on the radio yesterday morning.

The reason he said that they were needed was that Local Plans take seven years to be produced, so a new system had to be introduced to make the system work faster.

But Local Plans, designed to last for at least 20 years, are almost complete for London (at "intend to publish" stage) and at an advanced stage for Brent (Final Examination).

After all the effort, and several stages of public consultation, that has gone into producing these Local Plans, is the Government going to cast them aside and impose its own planning scheme in place of the detailed work that has already been done? That would probably cause further delay in getting clear answers on where development should be concentrated.

The interviewer (Nick Robinson, I think), as well as asking whether Jenrick was the right person to be putting forward major changes to the Planning System, after his fast-tracking approval of a major scheme (against the advice of Planning Inspectors) had been found to be unlawful, asked him how much had been donated by property developers to the Conservative Party since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister?

Jenrick tried to sidestep the question by saying that, as a minister, he didn't get involved in that sort of thing; it was a matter for the Party. The interviewer countered with a "well, I will tell you! Over £11 million".

Who is driving these proposed planning changes? Your guess is probably the same as mine!