The article in today’s Daily Telegraph, which appears under the heading ‘Towns becoming battleground over unwanted developments’ will resonate with those of us who live in East Devon. The quote from a parish in Hampshire that they are ‘basically under siege’ by developers will chime particularly with villagers in Feniton.
The article outlines the conclusions reached by a committee set up by the Department for Communities and Local Government and chaired by MP Clive Betts. The committee was set up to review the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which has been in place since March 2012. The NPPF requires all councils to plan where housing should be built within their area through the adoption of a ‘Local Plan’.
However, what I found interesting was the committee’s finding that four in ten councils have not yet adopted a Local Plan, meaning therefore that 60 per cent of councils do have a plan in place. This is confusing given Brandon Lewis’s assertion (see https://susiebond.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/developers-gaming-system-to-build-on-countryside-says-trust/) that 80 per cent have managed to work through the arduous process of public consultation, developer consultation and consultation with the various authorities responsible for providing the infrastructure to cope with the Coalition’s programme of mass building.
The Daily Telegraph article is reproduced below.
Towns and villages are being turned into a ‘battleground between developers and local authorities’ in the wake of controversial planning reforms, MPs say today.
Four in 10 councils had not yet adopted local plans to protect their communities from unwanted building developments, leaving them open to speculative projects, the Communities and Local Government committee found.
In some areas, builders were ‘poaching’ council planning officers on large salaries, ‘leaving councils understaffed and short of necessary skills’.
The MPs also found there was not enough protection for areas of outstanding natural beauty or town centres in need of development. The news came as Downing Street admitted there could be problems with the new rules. A spokesman said: ‘There will always be potential for areas of concern.’ The Coalition brought in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) with a bias in favour of sustainable development.
The committee’s 50-page report is the first review of the NPPF, which was introduced despite protests from countryside campaigners and readers of The Telegraph.
The report found that only 41 per cent of councils had set out where building can and cannot take place over a five-year period.
Even some of those councils that had adopted local plans were seeing their housing projects challenged by builders who were claiming they were not viable.
MPs said there was no need to ‘tear up or withdraw’ the NPPF, but insisted ministers should ‘reinforce its provisions and ensure it does the job it was intended to do’.
Clive Betts MP, the committee’s chairman, said developers were ‘undermining the process’ by ‘claiming sites were unviable in order to obtain planning permission on other, more lucrative sites against the wishes of the council and community’.
In some parts of the country, it was ‘open season’ for developers, the MPs heard, with one parish council in Hampshire saying that it was ‘basically under siege’.
Another council in Gloucestershire complained that ‘little weight … was given to the environmental value of the countryside.’
Council planning officers were being ‘poached’ on large salaries by builders ‘leaving councils understaffed and short of the necessary skills.’
Planning permissions were being granted without any thought for the ‘impact on local infrastructure such as schools, health care, transport and sewerage.’