Last week the UK Government published its Planning White Paper. Boris Johnson wants to “tear down the planning system and start again”. He (or rather Jack Airey and Dominic Cummings, let’s be honest) is giving huge power to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to decide what happens in your local area. And it’s being taken away from you and from local government as a result.
You won’t be able to object to a planning application again in most cases. There will be “automatic planning permission for areas identified as “Growth areas” within local plans, so your councillors won’t have a say either on individual developments.
And because the “development management policies” and the National Planning Policy Framework that effectively tell you what development should look like are written by the Ministry and not by your planning authority any more, don’t think you can have a local plan that’s special to your area. Your local plan is now just a way of providing the information on what is where on the map of where developers can build with impunity, with the blessing of the Ministry. And those local plans, or rather maps, are only retained because even Airey and Cummings know they don’t know every area in the country. The next problem will be when they decide they don’t care about that either.
This all comes on top of the permitted development right changes that become law at the end of August 2020. These mean that developers no longer need to ask for permission to demolish commercial buildings and build new residential ones. If you want to know what the “beautiful” new world of how to decide what goes where in England looks like, you just need to look at these new permitted development rights. Research commissioned by the Government into how recently introduced permitted development rights allowed developers to change offices into residential flats concluded that they were resulting in “slums”. Did that give anyone in Government a pause for thought? It seems not.
Your voice? Lost almost completely. Even your right to be heard in the new look local maps (plans), enshrined in the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act is now at the “discretion” of the Inspector. And it’s not a right if someone else is deciding if you get to use it.
So to sum up what it means for us:
- A new zonal system for planning in England consisting of ‘protected’, ‘renewal’ or ‘growth’ zones where you will only even get a say in the map of what is where if the Inspector agrees
- No more planning applications except in exceptional circumstances so no right to object to individual developments
- You can get involved in a design code, but the Government is going to have a national one, so you might be able to choose the colour of the gates
The big question is whether we trust the Government and developers to do the right thing without having to listen to us at all. Our voices will only be heard through protest. We’ll be criminalised for wanting a say over our places, that we live in. Number 10 thinks this will all be beautiful. We think this is going to be ugly.