Thursday, 5 June 2014

Private Bill to amend the National Planning Policy Framework: second reading: Friday 6th June

Tomorrow sees further parliamentary debate on the NPPF:
MP introduces bill to amend National Planning Policy Framework | East Devon Alliance

With details here:
National Planning Policy Framework (Community Involvement) Bill 2013-14 — UK Parliament

There has been quite a campaign:
Time to give communities a real say in the planning process (Greg Mulholland MP)
Time to give communities a real say in the planning process | Community Voice on Planning

With very specific policy changes in planning law proposed:
LibDem MP calls for developers to lose appeal rights » Housing » 24dash.com
Bill aims to list community pub as separate planning classification

There are several campaigns and civic societies in support of the bill:
Sign online to stop developers in South Cheshire - Crewe Chronicle
Home - Protect Congleton Civic Society

This is the body of the proposed bill:

National Planning Policy Framework (Community Involvement)

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
1.35 pm
Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring a Bill to make further provision for the National Planning Policy Framework; and for connected purposes.

The planning community involvement Bill seeks to build on the initiatives in the Localism Act 2011 to give communities more of a say in planning decisions, and to amend the national planning policy framework. Despite having much to commend it and despite it being a much-needed simplification of planning law, that framework has still not got the balance right between the rights of developers and those of local communities. It is also not being properly implemented by some local authorities.

In a June 2011 guide to the Localism Bill, the then planning Minister stated that the purpose of the Government’s localism agenda—one I warmly welcomed —was
“to help people and their locally elected representatives achieve their own ambitions”.

Although I am delighted that the coalition Government have taken many steps in the right direction, including the assets of community value scheme, neighbourhood development plans and a number of measures, in reality many of our constituents—including those of Members from both coalition parties, and around the House—know that unwanted development is still being imposed on them, often with little chance to do anything about it.

Developers are still cherry-picking greenfield sites and building expensive multi-bedroom houses in areas that do not want and cannot support significant development. That is not what the country needs; we need more affordable homes in key areas and more social housing. Reform is needed to ensure that building happens where it is wanted and needed by communities and regions, and on brownfield sites first, not simply where developers will make money building homes that are out of the reach of the pockets of ordinary people.

These are sensible measures; they are not radical and this is not nimbyism. I do not propose to try to stop development everywhere, and I am certainly not trying to discourage the housing we need. The measures in my Bill are supported by organisations such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which has suggested a number of measures, the Campaign for Real Ale, Civic Voice, and also by the Local Government Association and local councils. I hope that the Bill will start a debate about how we can reform the planning system to get it right as we approach the general election, which is now just a year away. In Leeds, many communities such as Cookridge, Bramhope, Pool-in-Wharfedale and Adel, are already facing huge increases in housing, including on green-belt land. That is at a time when many parts of the city and region are crying out for housing of the sort that we need, yet those sites are simply being land-banked and ignored.

There are also issues with housing targets. For example, Leeds city council is proposing to build 70,000 homes by 2028. That is the highest figure among all major UK cities, despite it having the lowest population increase of any major city since the 2001 census. It does not make sense. A local campaign group, Wharfedale and Airedale Review Development, has pointed out that if figures are calculated on the 2011 census, the figure should be only 48,000, yet a higher target is being imposed on local people. That is the situation in Leeds, but it is reflected around the country.

We also have permitted development rights for assets and local facilities that clearly involve a fundamental change of use, and the loss of that community facility. That can apply to community centres, local shops, post offices and pubs. It is great news that the Government have now responded on betting shops. It was clearly an absurdity to allow betting shops to go through without planning permission, and it is also absurd—and I speak in this regard as the chairman of the all-party save the pub group—that pubs can become supermarkets, solicitors’ offices or payday loan shops without having to go through the planning process and without any opportunity for the community to have a say.

The Department for Communities and Local Government says that that problem is solved by the assets of community value scheme and article 4 directions, but it is not. The ACV initiative is being undermined by the inadequacy of the planning system, and in many areas the Localism Act 2011 is being ignored. For example, recently in my constituency an application was made to build houses and a supermarket on a playing field, in an area where local schools do not have their own playing fields. Despite a campaign by the local Hyde Park Olympic legacy group and a pending asset of community value application, the application went through. That is scandalous, and my Bill would address that.

Some 350 pubs have been listed as ACVs, but how many have actually been saved? The answer is only a few. In London, the Campaign for Real Ale has pointed to several pubs—the Castle in Battersea is a heap of rubble, the George IV in Brixton is a Tesco store, and the Chesham Arms is an office with an unauthorised flat. The initiative is being undermined.

My Bill would abolish the right of developers to appeal. There has been an inequity between communities and developers for too long. A report by Savills estate agents shows that 75% of all planning appeals for large housing developments are allowed after local councils have originally voted them down. My Bill proposes the simplest and cheapest solution, which is to abolish the right to override local authority decisions by appealing to a distant planning inspector. That would be good news for the Treasury, because we could abolish the Planning Inspectorate, saving £50 million a year.

I acknowledge that we need new homes, but paragraph 49 of the national planning policy framework should be amended to demand that developers must still meet local policy objectives, such as where a local authority seeks to prioritise development on brownfield sites before greenfield sites, and sweep away the nonsense of councils being unable to demonstrate a five-year land supply.

My Bill would also drop the requirement in the NPPF that local authorities should allocate an additional 20% buffer of deliverable housing sites. Developers can cause a 20% buffer to be required, rather than a 5% buffer, by under-delivering housing, so they are manipulating the system.

National Planning Policy Framework (Community Involvement) Bill 2013/14 | Planning Resource

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