The Government response to the petition has put a strong spin on the reality faced by communities across the country.
Here is the full wording broken down into segments, with comments from All4BetterDevelopment:
Government: Local communities are not forced to accept large housing developments.
Response: Yes they are. There are hundreds of examples around the country where this is happening right now. Local authorities are forced by the Government to build more houses than is appropriate given the lack of infrastructure. Any attempt to reign this in means the local authority falls behind on its 5 year housing land supply as soon as the Local Plan is drafted, sometimes even at public consultation stage. Developers then use this lack of 5 year housing supply to negate the Local Plan. Developers can apply virtually anywhere and local authorities are forced to approve the developments in fear of costly appeals. Developers are also able to fight local authority estimates of housing need as the Government methodology changes so often.
Communities are consulted throughout the Local Plan process and on individual planning applications.
Consultations are often a meaningless box-ticking exercise. The views of the public, no matter how many people, do not affect planning decisions. Some local authorities have received in excess of 2,000 objections to individual applications. This made no difference to approval.
The National Planning Policy Framework strongly encourages all local planning authorities to get up-to-date Local Plans in place as soon as possible, in consultation with the local community. Up-to-date Local Plans ensure that communities get the right development, in the right place, at the right time, reflecting the principles of sustainable development. Through the White Paper we are ensuring that every part of the country produces, maintains and implements an up-to-date plan, yet with the flexibility for local areas to decide how to plan in a way that best meets their needs.
The Government has changed the rules so many times it has made it near impossible for a local authority to put together a Local Plan. Many have had to keep amending plans and in the meantime, developers can keep on making speculative applications. The White Paper does not help communities facing over-development now and to make matters worse, the Government is considering imposing plans on authorities who have not been able to put them in place.
A wide section of the community should be proactively engaged so that Local Plans, as far as possible, reflect a collective vision and a set of agreed priorities for the sustainable development of the area, including those contained in any neighbourhood plans that have been made.
Many people have become alienated to the whole process and will not take part how ever much ‘community engagement’ local authorities try, as they are rightly cynical that local authorities do not really care for their view. Many communities put together Town/Village Plans ten years ago only to discover they had no planning weight. It is no wonder that the vast majority of communities have shown no interest in putting together a Neighbourhood Plan.
The Framework recognises the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. That is why our proposals are focussed on development in built up areas.
This makes no attempt to prevent rural over-development taking place now. Developers prefer greenfield sites because they are cheaper to bring to market.
We are also absolutely clear that Green Belt must be protected and that there are other areas that local authorities must pursue first, such as brownfield land and taking steps to increase density on urban sites.
This sentence contradicts itself. You can’t say you are protecting the Green Belt (and other areas of natural beauty) and then offer examples of how developers can get around it. You either protect it or you don’t.
The Government is committed to maximising the use of brownfield land and has already embarked on an ambitious programme to bring brownfield land back into use.
The Government has done this before and nothing happened. It has no new policies to do so.
We believe that developers should mitigate the impacts of development.
It tells a story that the Government have failed to come-up with any meaningful legislation to achieve this.
This is vital to make it acceptable to the local community and to addresses the cumulative impact of development in an area. Both the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).
Many local authorities cannot do this as they do not have an approved CIL plan. Small developments do not even allow local authorities to bill for CIL.
and Section 106 agreements can be used by local planning authorities to help fund supporting infrastructure and address the cumulative demand that development places on infrastructure.
Section 106 rarely allows enough funding for any useful infrastructure i.e. roads, schools, healthcare. Developers can and do appeal anything beyond the impact of their development thus communities do not get the infrastructure the cumulative effect of a number of developments makes necessary. There is no strategic planning for any village or town, just piecemeal developments with infrastructure considerations as an afterthought once the chaos of an obvious lack of services ensues.
Through the White Paper, the Government announced that it will examine the options for reforming the existing system of developer contributions to see how this can be simplified, with further announcements at Autumn Budget 2017.
This won’t bring about the required increases as developers will say they can’t afford to build if they have to pay any more. In the meantime more applications will be approved.
The £2.3billion Housing Infrastructure Fund will deliver up to 100,000 new homes by putting in the right infrastructure, in the right place, at the right time. We expect the fund to be able to deliver a variety of types of infrastructure necessary to unlock housing growth in high demand areas.
The Government will be overwhelmed by requests against this fund. Without strategic application this will be wasted monies and will disappear into local authorities coffers to prop up their shortfalls as with the New Homes Bonus. There is no evidence that this fund is having any effect on the delivery of the right houses in the right place for an affordable cost.
There is nothing automatic about grants of planning permission where there is not yet an up-to-date Local Plan. It is still up to local decision-makers to interpret and apply national policy to local circumstances, alongside the views of the local community. Applications should not be approved if the adverse impacts would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits; or if specific policies in the Framework indicate that development should be restricted.
This completely ignores what is actually happening. Local authorities are approving applications because they fear developers will just appeal (as they don’t have a 5 year of supply of housing) and they will lose appeals and incur costs. The New Homes Bonus forces local authorities to boost housebuilding in order to get their hands on this Government subsidy to make up for shortfalls in their other funding.
Communities are also able to make representations on individual planning applications and in response to most appeals by the applicant against a local authority decision. Interested parties can raise all the issues that concern them during the planning process, in the knowledge that the decision maker will take their views into account, along with other material considerations, in reaching a decision.
In reality local authorities do not even ensure that all comment reaches those who make the decision. It is incredibly rare for public comments to alter a local authority planner’s decision. Local authorities have acknowledged the Planning Inspectorate (who deal with appeals) give little or no emphasis to the number of objections.
We therefore do not believe a right of appeal against the grant of planning permission for communities is necessary. It is considered that communities already have plenty of opportunity to have their say on local planning issues, and it would be wrong for them to be able to delay a development at the last minute, through a community right of appeal, when any issues they would raise at that point could have been raised and should have been considered during the earlier planning application process.
In essence, the Government believes that local authorities can be trusted to enforce Government policy to build lots more houses. Appeals would slow this down and add an unwelcome degree of oversight.
Time and time again, Parish and Town Councils object to developments only for the local authority to approve the development.
The only way an individual resident can appeal is through a costly Judicial Review, whereas a developer can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate without incurring much cost. This is a complete imbalance and the same appeal opportunities should be allowed for individuals as for developers.
There must be a community right of appeal.
If you haven’t signed the petition already please sign and forward to everyone you know: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/17733