Overhaul of Planning Laws Abandoned by Ministers Following Criticisms

Overhaul Planning Laws Abandoned

Reports from Westminster suggest that an overhaul of planning laws to speed up the construction of new homes in England is set to be abandoned by the government. In the face of strong criticism from a number of influential figures, the “Project Speed” reforms could either be scaled down or reversed entirely.

The proposed planning laws were outlined in the Queen’s speech earlier this year as part of the government’s pledge to hit a new target of 300,000 homes built annually in England. With other measures to go ahead, they would speed up and simplify the system for obtaining planning permission for new developments, with the potential to increase the number of homes being built by more than 30%.

Campaigners and critics hit back at the controversial proposals, which they said would result in the “suburbanization” of important green areas of the country. All while failing to make an impact on the UK’s affordable housing shortage, which is already making it impossible for most private renters to get on the housing ladder.

A victory for common sense

While the government has yet to confirm the rumours, speculation is rife that the proposals will be abandoned due to strong resistance from MPs and voters in the South of England. If the proposals were to go ahead, they would prevent homeowners from formally objecting to planning applications while giving councils mandatory house-building targets.

Speaking on behalf of CPRE, deputy chief executive Tom Fyans called the expected reversal “a victory for common sense”, stating that all indications suggest “some of the most damaging proposals of what was a top-down developers’ charter have been rightly binned” and dubbed the move a “victory for common sense”.

“The government must not shy away from overhauling a tired planning system to make it fit for the multiple challenges of the 21st century,” he continued.

“Local communities need a stronger right to be heard in local decisions; brownfield sites must automatically be developed first to help protect local green spaces and our green belts in the fight against climate change, and young people and key workers desperately need more funding for rural affordable homes.”

Refusing to confirm or refute the rumours, the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government simply stated that further information would be published “in due course”.

Concerns for green space development

When the government first announced the initiative, it was stated that the overhaul would lead to “simpler, faster procedures for producing local development plans, approving major schemes, assessing environmental impacts, and negotiating affordable housing and infrastructure contributions”.

However, critics quickly hit back by labelling the potential reforms an “utter disaster” in the making, warning that the impact on green spaces around England could be devastating.

“We will see a lot more houses on greenfield land and in areas of outstanding natural beauty. The people in the north of England need these green spaces for their wellbeing,” said Debra McConnell, CPRE chair.

According to Shelter, there are now more than 1.1 million people on waiting lists for social housing in England alone.