We have been campaigning against the Conservative Government’s ‘Planning for the Future’ scheme which would result in even more massive overdevelopment in Barnet with local communities and planning committees effectively side-lined in the process.
We have submitted a formal response to the Government’s consultation on ‘Planning for Future’ (consultation has now closed). A copy of our submission can be found below.
Please sign our petition to stop the Conservatives’ reckless bonfire of planning regulation and to help us stop massive overdevelopment in Barnet.
From: Houston, Cllr Ross
Sent: 29 October 2020 22:47
Subject: Response to HM Government’s Planning for the Future proposals
Dear Secretary of State
Barnet Labour Group submission to the ‘Planning for the Future’ consultation
I am writing on behalf of the Barnet Labour Group of councillors to oppose the Government’s ‘Planning for the Future’ document.
Very rarely do so many different voices speak in unison on a subject, but ‘Planning for the Future’ has resulted in well-argued condemnation from cross-party politicians – MPs, council leaders and councillors, the cross-party LGA, and industry professionals alike.
RIBA, Shelter, TCPA, RTPI, CPRE are just a few that have published criticisms of the proposals.
The Town and Country Planning Association has said: “The proposals are incoherent, will undermine democratic controls, reduce the quality of new development, and waste an important opportunity to build safer, healthier, more equal, and more environmentally sustainable places.”
The RIBA president has stated that these changes could lead to the ‘next generation of slum housing’.
We would like to echo their concerns, and also the concerns of many local residents and residents’ associations in Barnet to these plans.
What makes London and our cities attractive is their diversity of supply, from our garden suburbs to the Thames Gateway.
The UK government created massive post war new housing in new towns and city regeneration without tearing up the planning system. This sledge-hammer approach to reform is a betrayal of the localism agenda and a major centralisation of power.
We believe the proposals should be withdrawn wholesale, and completely re-thought.
Please accept the below as the submission from the Barnet Labour Group of Councillors on some of our specific concerns.
The Labour Party’s Labour Housing Group has also made a submission (a copy of which I have attached). We also support the specific points raised by them and would also like these to be included as part of our submission.
Cllr Ross Houston
Deputy Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, and Lead on Housing and Growth
Barnet Labour Group of Councillors submission to the Planning for the Future proposals:
Ripping up of all current planning regulation and process
We do not agree to the proposed ripping up of all current planning regulation and process. Doing so will simply waste time and resources and jam up the system rather than make it more efficient and effective.
Community participation and involvement
We do not agree with the side-lining of community participation and involvement in the planning process proposed by ‘Planning for Future’. Planning and development is about shaping the area for the good of the local community and their voices should be heard at different stages and throughout the process – including commenting on final applications.
Without this, local buy-in for development – which is often controversial – will be harder to achieve. The views of local people often improve the final planning application, and this should not be lost to the system.
Reduction in democratic control
Local authorities have agreed 90% of planning applications according to the LGA figures, and there are around a million permissions that have not been delivered by developers. Tackling this land banking would be a good place for reform to start.
Nevertheless, it is a complete nonsense to say that Councils must be side-lined to speed planning permissions up.
What’s more, reducing democratic control and accountability will result in poorer planning and development outcomes, development in the wrong places, poor quality homes and fewer affordable homes. It is local authorities that know their areas and communities best – a rigid system of zones and design codes alone will not result in developments that are right for communities.
In Barnet we already have a developed local plan that has gone through a cross-party democratic process with local people consulted. Moving to a new more complicated zonal system will lead to further delays with less flexibility and poorer outcomes.
Local planning committees must continue to decide all major planning applications.
We know that much of London and Barnet will be designated for growth. Already the Government target is higher than the target agreed between the Council and the Mayor of London, but the new algorithm the Government is proposing will push targets up even further to over 5,000 a year. This is unacceptable.
Affordable housing, S106 and CiL
We agree that we need to increase affordable housing supply. Barnet Council have delivered only 15% affordable homes in the last three years. But, to build genuinely affordable homes we need Government to restore housing grant, and reform the discredited viability system that lets developers off the hook from delivering local affordable housing targets.
The Planning for the Future proposals will make matters far worse with the ripping up of the current system of Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy developer contributions.
The Council has heavily relied on this money to fund infrastructure and housing. Barnet could be one of the councils worst affected by this loss of funding.
Quality housing and sustainability
Proposed changes to the planning process and system relating to extending permitted development rights – including the ability to build 2 storeys on most housing without planning permission could result in rampant over-development. And, the ability to convert office to residential without planning permission will result in poorer quality rabbit-hutch housing which could become ‘the slums of the future’ as others have said.
Reducing local council and democratic control of the planning process as proposed by Planning for the Future will have a similar effect for other development.
We also agree with the CPRE that the Government is not being ambitious enough on sustainable homes. Climate change considerations should be at the heart of development, yet the proposals here are to deliver carbon neutral homes by 2050, when the Code for Sustainable Homes which was dropped by the Government aimed to do so by 2016.
We agree with the LGA that “It is vital that these[homes] are delivered through a locally-led planning system with public participation at its heart which gives communities the power to ensure new developments are of a high standard, built in the right places, and include affordable homes. We also need to ensure that new homes are supported by new funding for community infrastructure such as schools, playgrounds and roads.”
Protection of green spaces
Protecting green spaces is a priority for us. We agree that development should take place on brownfield land, and the best way of ensuring this happens is for decisions on planning to be made democratically and at a local level.
Councillor Ross Houston
Deputy Leader of the Labour Group
Labour Spokesperson on Housing and Growth
London Borough of Barnet
Town Hall, The Burroughs, Hendon, London NW4 4BG
Barnet Online: www.barnet.gov.uk