"It has not escaped readers that the Government has recently published its White Paper, Planning for the Future. This white paper details an ambitious pleather of ideas for how we might change our outdated, complex and slow planning system.
In brief, the aim of these planning reforms is to ensure that we build in a better-designed, more environmentally friendly way and that can help more people into homeownership. The White Paper looks to streamline developer contributions and introduces three zoning arrangements; Growth, Renewal and Protection.
Local authorities will divide their areas into these three categories. Those that fall into ‘Growth’ will be able to be more easily developed, provided it meets regulation and design codes. ‘Renewal’ would see residents able to expand upon their properties. Those areas that are designated under ‘Protection’ such as the Green Belt or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, will, as the name suggests, be protected from development.
In theory, this all sounds well and good and I welcome the sentiment behind the proposals. However, when you consider that the word ‘rural’ only once appears in the White Paper, then you begin to believe that what we are being presented with are proposals that are best suited for urban growth, not rural development.
Over the last ten months, I have studied many of the neighbourhood plans that we are so fortunate to have in place. Their continued survival and input will be essential in ensuring that local communities not only build beautifully and in the right way but are in keeping with local demand and infrastructure capability.
South Hams District Council have worked hard to produce a Joint Local Plan which focuses on development in a fair and equitable balance across the area. These proposals should not be overlooked, encouraging cross-region cooperation can ensure that we build in the right places rather than building to just meet targets. A one size fits all approach is inadequate and takes little account of where we have achieved targets already and where there is already a robust system in place.
Jobs and development must go hand in hand. There can be little point in building hundreds of new homes across an area if the jobs aren’t there to support those who might wish to buy. Fortunately, I believe South Devon has a great deal of opportunity to grow new and innovative industries and services. But it is essential that jobs come first and then we use the expeditious proposals outlined in this paper to build the houses that are needed by those who wish to live and work in the area.
Finally, much consternation has rightly be directed at the algorithm. Which if accurate will see South Hams and Torbay Authority almost double the number of houses they are required to build. It is fair to say that rural MPs across the country are more than concerned about the impact this could have on their communities and we are all working to see how this can be amended and rectified to suit our communities. The recent comments of the Housing Minister, Chris Pincher MP, should be cautiously welcomed in that “the numbers generated (by the algorithm) for an areas housing need will not necessarily be the same as their ultimate targets.” Here is hoping that they are considerably less.
Reform of the planning sector is more than necessary. There are a number of proposals in this White Paper that I believe will benefit the whole country. However, in its current form I do not believe it is fit for purpose. That is why I have joined a working group of backbench MPs to reform these plans. But, to succeed I need the help of every reader to submit their views to this consultation so that our arguments and stance are given the added weight that they deserve."