Response to Government White Paper: Planning for the Future

Introduction

Arial view of York Central

York Green Party decided to respond to the consultation on the White Paper: Planning for the future, as the wholesale shake-up of the planning framework is a serious issue that significantly concerns and potentially weakens local communities. Below are the question set out in the online consultation in (bold green) and YPG’s responses (in black).

You can make a submission as an individual and you are welcome to use any or all of our responses as a basis for yours.

Most of the questions have ‘Yes, No, Don’t Know’ response option and then a narrative space. In come cases, there are multiple-choice options. In the document below you see which of these we have ticked; generally, that has been ‘other’.

In some questions the narrative box available to elaborate and ‘other’ answer does not allow any formatting. The text below however shows the formatting we would have used if we could have.

P 12 of this documents is not part of the response (except the last paragraph; it explains that there is a significant proportion of the white paper (4 key proposals) on which there are no questions in the consultation and how we have dealt with that.

YGP Response

1. What three words do you associate most with the planning system in England?

We did not respond to this question.

2. Do you get involved with planning decisions in your local area?

Yes

2(a). If no, why not?

Our reasons for getting involved would be:

  • If it is an application that affects our immediate neighbourhood and there are environmental issues raised by it
  • If it is an application that relates to a major development project that will affect the neighbourhood, town, or wider region significantly
  • If woodlands, trees, and wildlife habitats are under threat from the proposed development.

3. Our proposals will make it much easier to access plans and contribute your views to planning decisions. How would you like to find out about plans and planning proposals in the future?

  • Other
  • We think a range of ways in which planning applications are made public are needed (see also our response above). But we are absolutely certain that the posting of planning applications on lampposts or similar in the immediate vicinity of the proposed development should remain one of the requirements of the planning process. Many people will only find out about applications in this way.
  • In addition, the requirements to alert local residents by post of proposed developments are essential and need to be more extensive than they are now. The limits on who needs to be alerted should be broadened out and differentiated in terms of the type / scale of development proposed.
  • If permitted development rights are to be significantly increased – and it looks that way – then this should come with a requirement to inform affected neighbours to allow them to raise concerns.
  • We understand the benefits of web based systems for planning applications but we also believe that this may exclude some citizens from participation. It is important that whatever systems are employed cover the broadest range of options and are accessible to those with special requirements (e.g. visual impairment) and those who are not able or comfortable to access online only systems.

4. What are your top three priorities for planning in your local area?

  • Other – please specify
  • Housing policy should be fully integrated with other policies to build more sustainable, self-reliant communities. The provision of housing should be coordinated with developments to provide work, leisure, education, transport and health care.
  • One of the key purposes of planning is to integrate competing priorities and demands into a whole plan that works for residents, visitors, businesses and the planet. Thus, identifying three different priorities in isolation is actually not that helpful.
  • There do need to be more homes for homeless people and homes that are affordable to local residents and homes that are energy efficient (zero carbon); but there also has to be employment in the area to remove the need for excessively long commuting; and transport systems/infrastructure have to support sustainable transport (and active transport).
  • The purpose of local planning is for local people, elected by local people, to make decisions that work locally and in the particular context of the place.
  • Planning needs to be holistic. Currently we see developments that are not sustainable because they are not tied into local jobs or public transport and do not have local community centres and shops so that they effectively force people to use cars. Sustainability for the long term needs to be at the core of the planning system.

5. Do you agree that Local Plans should be simplified in line with our proposals?

No

In principle, there are no objections to simplifying Local Plans. However, if simplification means that Local Authorities are being forced into a centrally imposed framework that does not allow them to consider local circumstances then that is a simplification that is counterproductive.

The very crude separation into three categories of development land (Growth, Renewal and Protected) seems too simplistic. There are many reasons why local authorities would want to scrutinize plans for developments in all areas; there are many reasons why local residents would want a say in the specific developments proposed in their area and on their doorsteps. These are not always about trying to prevent development but about real concerns.

Furthermore, the need for additional infrastructure is directly linked to the type of development proposed and if Local Authorities are not given the opportunity to review specific planning applications then they will miss the opportunity of deciding whether the infrastructure is up to supporting such developments or not, now and in the future.

Where developments are allowed simply because they are in a “growth” area this will lead to unsustainable developments that effectively require people to use cars. We need to see more careful developments where work and homes are more closely connected so that more people can walk or cycle to work. We also need to ensure that developments are properly linked into the public transport network. Children are rarely considered in developments, with developments prioritising cars over play, driving over walking and cycling. Reducing planning will only exacerbate this as developers go for short term profit.

It is also very unclear how the proposal to establish three kinds of zones for planning – “Growth”, “Renewal”, and “Protected” – will fit with the mandating of net biodiversity gain in all new developments in the Environment Bill. Net gain is already vague enough as it is and could just be used to wave through developments that destroy habitats that take hundreds of years to establish themselves on the grounds that they do some tree-planting elsewhere.

The loss of section 106 grants will mean that local councils will have to pick up many of the costs of developments, which should fall on the developers.

The loss of planning controls is also likely to lead to an even smaller proportion of “affordable” homes than we have at the moment.

Finally, local democracy should count for something. These proposals seem a further centralization of decision-making away from local areas (local authorities and local residents) and this is a retrograde step.

6. Do you agree with our proposals for streamlining the development management content of Local Plans, and setting out general development management policies nationally?

No

See responses above. Setting out such policies nationally is centralization of a matter that should be for local residents and local authorities to decide.

7(a). Do you agree with our proposals to replace existing legal and policy tests for Local Plans with a consolidated test of “sustainable development”, which would include consideration of environmental impact?

No

Firstly, without a clear definition of ‘sustainable development’ (which is lacking from the consultation document) this is too open-ended a question.

Sustainability depends on many factors relating to environmental impact, carbon emissions, transport, infrastructure and so on and without being very clear about what the criteria along all these issues are, this is far too open a proposal.

However, it is important that the requirement for sustainable development is retained and enhanced. This needs to include impacts of the development itself; so that new houses are built to PassivHaus (or similar) standard and similarly for commercial developments. For larger developments the way that they provide local resources such as shops, doctors, community centres so that people can live without cars will also be essential.

7(b). How could strategic, cross-boundary issues be best planned for in the absence of a formal Duty to Cooperate?

The suggestion that the Duty to Cooperate across boundaries should be abolished is astonishing and perplexing in equal measure. There seems absolutely no reason to abolish it. It makes sense that where development proposals cross boundaries these need to be considered by all local authorities concerned. The consultation document does not explain what the benefit of the removal of this Duty is.

8(a). Do you agree that a standard method for establishing housing requirements (that takes into account constraints) should be introduced?

No

The consultation document is very broad brush-stroke on the subject of what this standard method might be. Clearly, housing requirements are multi-faceted and need to take account of population changes, housing need (which is clearly different to housing demand), the need for different types and tenures of housing, the development of employment opportunities in each area and changes in employment patterns. The question of the impact of housing development on commuting and transport is also a significant consideration. The need for additional social infrastructure (such as schools, hospitals, green spaces, parks, playgrounds and so on) also will impact on development decisions. So without further detail as to how and to what extent these issues will factor into such a method, this does not seem, on the face of it, to be a very good idea.

8(b). Do you agree that affordability and the extent of existing urban areas are appropriate indicators of the quantity of development to be accommodated?

No

Clearly, affordability is an important issue. However, there is no real guarantee that building more in expensive areas will reduce the price. Instead, it could lead to more movement into those areas. They are expensive because they are attractive (for whatever reason) so this might be counterproductive unless there is emphasis on building affordable housing and guaranteeing that such housing remains affordable. This should focus on providing publicly owned housing that is structured legally so it will stay publicly owned.

Another reason why some areas have high housing cost is because employment is focused in those areas (allowing for increasing commuting distances; the catchment areas of high employment areas are getting bigger and bigger with the attendant impact on house prices in those commuting locations further afield.) Therefore, a broader view should be taken that focuses some effort on moving employment into areas with lower housing costs (and greater availability).

With regard to building more in areas with more urbanization makes sense on the face of it. Some degree of increasing densities might also be sustainable in such areas. However, we have seen the immense importance of having access to both private and public green space during the lockdown as a result of the pandemic and this should be an indicator that density of housing and other development must take account of this. That said, it is also important that villages, towns and city don’t all merge into one and therefore there needs to be rigorous protection of the Green Belt.

Increasing density is also an issue in terms of how it fits with the character of a local area. Based as we are in a historic city, we are very aware of the fact that increasing density (especially if it is achieved by increases in building heights) could have a disastrous impact on the area. This could impact the economy, especially in places that have a significant tourist industry precisely because of the character and look of the local area.

Failure to address the real barriers to house building – the need for land value tax, penalties for land-banking, resourcing of planning authorities and to invest in good quality council housing.

These proposals could lead to a proliferation of greenfield, out of town, car-driven developments which are loved by both the development industry and the land-selling industry because they maximise profits for both these industries. These dormitory housing estates are far less sustainable than brownfield development near existing transport and services and are often unpopular with communities as they take away precious open farmland and green space, as well as harbouring the potential for social isolation problems.

There is also clear evidence that the best way to bring about more and better housing of the kind needed by our communities, whilst at the same time stimulating our economy post Covid, is to make finance available to local authorities to build council housing and this white paper is a wasted opportunity to bring this about.  We need to see a serious approach to affordable housing which also encompasses withdrawing the right to buy legislation. A proper definition of affordable housing is also required. The paper aims to provide at least as much affordable housing as under the current system but should be much more ambitious than that – particularly as regards affordable rented housing.

The white paper fails to address the failure of the house building industry to bring forward developments which have been given permission but which developers are failing to build out, instead ‘land banking’.

There is a gap around ensuring continued investment in affordable homes provided by community land trusts.

9(a). Do you agree that there should be automatic outline permission for areas for substantial development (Growth areas) with faster routes for detailed consent?

No

In principle, there could be advantages to a more accessible and visual approach to local planning, if this genuinely allows communities to engage better at an earlier stage of the planning process. However, the proposals set out entirely lack detail about how this would be achieved and fail to address digital exclusion. Given the proposals were developed without reference to any expert in community involvement (or even a single local planning authority) it is not surprising that in practice the proposals are heavily skewed against a better deal for communities. The principles of localism appear to have been entirely abandoned. Localism needs to be embedded in the reforms, building on the work on Neighbourhood Planning that has been so successful in many parishes and towns around the country, an approach we strongly support.

The proposals simply do not put our communities at the heart when it comes to decision-making and they tilt the balance of the planning system further in favour of large scale development and land-buying industries. The zones are too broad and do not allow for local circumstances.

Growth zones must first pass environmental assessments / sustainability tests and the current proposals do not provide a practical way for this to take place – as there is no allowance in the process for resources needed for these assessments to take place prior to allocation. 

This proposal puts far too much power into the hands of developers and removes democratic control. It puts a huge amount of trust in the community orientation of major developers, which are not supported by evidence of their impact on development. It assumes that they will build the best they can, when experience tells us that they build whatever makes them the most money. Developing national design guidelines that would ameliorate this power imbalance would have to be so detailed and so extensive as to be completely unworkable. It is essential that there remains a significant amount of control in democratically elected local hands over what is built and where.

9(b). Do you agree with our proposals above for the consent arrangements for Renewal and Protected areas?

No

Unfortunately, the proposals for renewal and protected areas are different in the consultation document and thus a question relating to both cannot have a simple yes or no answer.

The proposals for renewal areas still err on the side of faith in developers to do the right thing. Even if there is a presumption in favour of development, the specifics of the development matter and should be scrutinized. Unfortunately the whole set of proposals is based on an attempt to reduce and limit the amount of local scrutiny that can be exercised and that is a retrograde step.

The proposals for protected areas, proposing that planning applications would be submitted and dealt with as now, with control by the Local Authority are ones we would agree with.

Designating land into these 3 types also risks missing some important factors which should govern land use. As a minimum there need to be additional categories of land use which will enable local areas to set local targets, for example

  • Renewable energy generation
  • Food production 
  • Rewilding and nature
  • Carbon sequestration

9(c). Do you think there is a case for allowing new settlements to be brought forward under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime?

Not sure

There is some argument for large-scale development (such as ‘new towns’) in some areas and they would need a different approach to planning. However, in so far as they would be situated in one local authority area there is little justification for not giving the planning responsibility to that local authority. Where such a site straddles local authorities, there should be a presumption that planning would be dealt with by a planning body set up by those local authorities.

The presumption for all development (however large or small) should be to make the decisions at the most local level possible.

10. Do you agree with our proposals to make decision-making faster and more certain?

No

Whilst there is no benefit in making decisions more slowly than necessary, and there can be too much bureaucracy, in general, it is important that plans are considered carefully, that local residents and local authorities (and other interested parties) have appropriate time to consider them and to make their voices heard. So, speed in decision-making is not a good in itself and should never be the driver in such decision.

11. Do you agree with our proposals for accessible, web-based Local Plans?

Yes

This is a qualified yes as we do not think that this, alone, is enough to ensure that participation in the planning process is enhanced sufficiently. Accessibility of plans and planning applications is important. And therefore it is good to think that more of the relevant information will be available online. However, there are still large areas of the country that do not have reliable and steady high-speed internet access and there are still many people who do not use the internet or are not that comfortable with it. If planning documentation were to be accessible exclusively via the Internet that would disenfranchise many people from taking any part in such decisions and that would be a significant retrograde step. Ensuring that local residents and other interested parties are alerted to planned development in their area should still be a right and should still be based on proactive information issued to them rather than reactive searching the Internet.

12. Do you agree with our proposals for a 30 month statutory timescale for the production of Local Plans?

No

We believe that a one size fits all timescale is not fit for purpose. Different Local Authorities have different contexts that pose different complexities. The question of how controversial certain elements of a local plan are is likely to affect what a reasonable timescale would look like. Local democracy (any democracy) needs time.

We are not advocating that there should be no timescale; however, any timescale given should be indicative and there should be scope for reasonable extensions in appropriate circumstances, which should be locally driven.

Developers have much to gain from quick decision-making and they have the resources to influence that decision-making quickly; local residents do not have those resources and should be given the opportunity to have the time to make meaningful contributions to the debate rather than being sidelined by big business.

13(a). Do you agree that Neighbourhood Plans should be retained in the reformed planning system?

Yes

This is possibly the only part of these proposals that we would agree with.

A continuing commitment to Neighbourhood Planning is welcome however  more investment is required to support communities to meet both the technical requirements and enable community participation. This should particularly focus on NPs in urban areas – as the vast proportion of NPs have been developed to date in parished rural areas.

Guidance on housing supply in NP areas should be provided, with a margin for flexibility over or under those numbers to allow especially small sites to be developed. The greater % of CIL to be allocated to an area with a NP should be maintained. The status and weighting of NP’s and their policies in relation to the adopted plan should be clarified as part of any reform.

13(b). How can the neighbourhood planning process be developed to meet our objectives, such as in the use of digital tools and reflecting community preferences about design?

This is such an open-ended question that it is hard to know where to start with an answer.

First, the use of digital tools should not be an objective in itself. They are, as the name implies, tools to achieve a good outcome. The critical ingredient isn’t the tools used but the effectiveness of involving local communities.

Second, it is important to ensure that local communities have clear information about what it is that is up for decision-making and what isn’t and why. And this should be open to challenge by local communities.

Third, it is important to ensure that the information provided that outlines the choices and the areas for discussion is such that people can understand it and that it isn’t too onerous in terms of the time it takes to engage with it. Maps, images, 3D models and the like can all help with making the information accessible. But more importantly, there need to be opportunities for actual engagement – face to face – with the people who are drawing up the plans to understand the reasons behind proposed choices.

Fourth, it is important that such consultation happens early on so that there is still scope for influencing the plan significantly, not as an afterthought when consultation is merely an exercise in rubber stamping and box-ticking.

14. Do you agree there should be a stronger emphasis on the build out of developments? And if so, what further measures would you support?

No

This question does not directly address the points made in the preceding paragraphs (paras 2.58 and 2.59 of the consultation document).

Those paragraphs conflate two separate issues: one, to speed up the development of large sites (in 2.58) and the possibility of ensuring the involvement of multiple developers (including smaller, local building firms) in such developments, which (as 2.59 suggests) would aid the speed of development across the site.

Opening up the possibility of smaller, local building firms to be involved in developments is to be welcomed. However, the proposals (which are about standardizing design as suggested in 2.59), are not really addressing the core issue, which is landownership. Large developers have the resources to purchase large tracts of land for such large-scale design and to land-bank (in order to trickle development to maximize price and profit). Unless local authorities are enabled to intervene in that mechanism smaller local firms will always struggle to become involved in any meaningful way (beyond subcontractor status).

It would be more helpful to limit the number or proportion of units that any one developer can produce on the largest sites. This would dis-incentivise the acquisition of huge land banks and thus open up the market for more and more local businesses.

15. What do you think about the design of new development that has happened recently in your area?

Other – please specify

As can be imagined, there has been a variety of development and some of this is designed in a way we consider positive. This question, in its broad application is thus not helpful.

The question is really: what sort of development is of a kind that local residents and other interested parties find acceptable in terms of design and looks, but also in terms of its function and integration into the local area and infrastructure.

One of the things we find helpful about new development is when it is not completely uniform in appearance and when it does not dominate the landscape to the detriment of other older development. This is as much about density and height as it is about ‘look’. This is particularly relevant in a city like York where the character of the built environment is a critical component of its attractiveness as a tourist destination and as a place to live and work. If that is taken away, it is likely to have significant detrimental consequences for the economy of the city.

Another thing that is important is that it does not add to vehicle transport and fits into the local transport infrastructure.

16. Sustainability is at the heart of our proposals. What is your priority for sustainability in your area?

Other

All the points listed above are important in terms of sustainability. They do not, however, go anywhere near far enough.

The focus on new building in these proposals belies the fact that a very large proportion of the housing and other building stock in this country is old and requires upgrade/retro-fitting to meet the kind of emissions standards needed to achieve zero carbon within any reasonable kind of timescale. So emphasis on looking at retro-fitting of the housing stock and ensuring that conversion of buildings to new/different uses incorporate retro-fitting are important and should feature in these proposals. This should be to PassivHouse standard of similar as a minimum.

But sustainability goes beyond the actual building. It also needs to cover aspects of the infrastructure that supports the development and the communities living and working in those developments and should cover the following:

  • Grid upgrades
  • Provision of renewable energy including solar PV on all roofs as standard
  • Rural and urban sustainable drainage
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Walking and cycle routes
  • Public transport
  • Schools, health & social care facilities
  • Community & cultural space
  • Local shops
  • Parks and green spaces
  • Allotments & other food growing space.

Without a clear commitment to ensuring all this is included in the design and planning there will be no sustainable development worthy of the name and able to meet the climate emergency response targets.

17. Do you agree with our proposals for improving the production and use of design guides and codes?

Yes

There is no reason not to have some design guidance. However, when this stifles local variation then it would not be helpful. We already have town centres and shopping centres all looking fairly bland because they all have the same shops and local, independent enterprise is pushed to the edges. So the questions is not: should there be design guides and codes but rather: what sort of design guides and codes should there be.

There is an essential place for design standards that for instance lay out minimum space requirements for homes, insulation levels, sustainable building materials and practices, and these need to be strengthened to ensure that developments are sustainable and liveable design codes tend to lead to boring uniform homogeneity.

Too much new housing is of a poor quality, for example with inadequate space and light, or poor energy performance. This is not only a problem for the occupants, it also increases opposition to new provision. new design regulations should require:

  1. Minimum space standards based on the ‘Parker Morris’ standards, to improve residents’ quality of life, ensure that homes are accessible, and are built to the Lifetime Homes standard so that they are able to accommodate changing personal circumstances and growing families. These standards should enable anyone with a disability to live in any home in Britain.
  2. Comfort standards addressing ergonomics, sound, privacy and light, so that homes are places of retreat.
  3. Energy efficiency and the lowest possible levels of greenhouse gas emissions and design to avoid overheating during summer months without reliance on energy intensive cooling systems, taking account of projections for our changing climate.
  4. Water sensitive design, with a per person consumption target of 100 litres per person per day, the use of rainwater and grey water recycling where appropriate. As a minimum, developments must achieve a neutral impact on surface water runoff, or where conditions don’t allow this discharge from the site must be limited, to reduce flooding. Drainage design must take account of the climate emergency, for example in preparing for a 1 in 100 year storm event. Care must be given to ensure that plants such as trees are given adequately sized pits to increase their resilience to the climate emergency.
  5. Use of low-impact materials, especially reused and recycled materials, to minimise the lifecycle embodied greenhouse gas emissions, energy, water and other resources used in the construction of buildings and over the lifecycle of the materials.
  6. Consideration of the importance of the built environment for other species such as lichens, birds, bats and insects, avoiding impacts where possible and enhancing the local ecology as part of the local planning policy.
  7. Provision of facilities to make sustainable lifestyle choices the easiest choice for occupants, for example in the provision of recycling bins and cycle parking.

We need to see a greater use of local, sustainable, building materials, with less use of steel and concrete (both of which are associated with significant CO2 emissions). People want to know where they live, and that means that they should have a local character which reflects the history and geography of the place.

If there is to be centralised and imposed guidance (and codes – which sound a lot more regulatory than guidance) on other developments and the form, shape, materials and looks of buildings (be they residential, commercial, industrial or whatever) then blandness will expand.

It will also militate against smaller, local builders who will not have the benefit of mass production that larger developers have who – if they are encouraged not to aim for variation in style and look – will be able to drive down costs beyond the level that local firms can compete with.

What is important is that there is regulatory guidance on the standard and quality of the build and the sustainability of the units (in terms of GHG emissions, water use and so on) and the sustainability of the development as a whole in terms of transport and proximity to services (to reduce the need for travel to access services).

18. Do you agree that we should establish a new body to support design coding and building better places, and that each authority should have a chief officer for design and place-making?

No

See our responses above. The local authority should take charge of local guidance on design and place-making (though We are not totally sure this is a helpful description); but to have a new body – no doubt national – is another step towards centralisation and another means by which large developers can focus their influence at national level and thus excluding local interests and local small firms. Planning is one area where more centralisation is not helpful and for that reason these proposals in their entirety go in the wrong direction.

It is also not clear what this would add beyond the work of The Royal Town Planning Institute.

Finally, the cuts in resources that local authorities have are at the route of the reduced capacity within local authorities to take a lead role in ‘place-making’. Local authorities need those resources locally. And the White Paper makes no suggestions about how those resources might be funded. Centralisation is not going to help with this lack of resources locally.

19. Do you agree with our proposal to consider how design might be given greater emphasis in the strategic objectives for Homes England?

No

Our reason for this answer is the same as above; whether it is a new body or Homes England that are given more central power over design is not the issue; this should be a local power left in democratically elected local hands with input from local residents who – after all – have to live with the outcomes of the decisions made. Planning is one area where more centralisation is not helpful and for that reason these proposals in their entirety go in the wrong direction.

20. Do you agree with our proposals for implementing a fast-track for beauty?

No

The proposals of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission are wide and varied. Their recommendation to ensure beauty (rather than ugliness) in development is to be welcomed, although beauty is in the eye of the beholder and not defined in the recommendations by the Commission – making rather an assumption that we all know what it means.

However, building for beauty does not need to be fast-tracked; the suggestion in the consultation document favours proposals that comply with pre-established principles of what good design looks like in yet another attempt to centralise decision-making about design and planning. But good design (or beauty if you like) has to be seen in context and that is local. What might be a wonderful addition in a townscape could be an eyesore in a rural environment. Scale is also critical to beauty, and that something is of an appropriate scale for its setting.  There is no objective criterion for beauty.So, where the local authority has set out what it believes to be good design for a given location (be that a large scale development of small infill projects) then that might lead to fast-tracking and that is positive. But if the decision about what good design looks like is made centrally, then it, too, will lead to centralisation, standardisation, removal of democratic accountability, and involvement of local voices.

There are no questions associated with the chapter on EFFECTIVE STEWARDSHIP AND ENHANCEMENT OF OUR NATURAL AND HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT. This covers proposals 15 to 18 and all of these relate to environmental and sustainability concerns.

Key points made in these 4 Proposals are:

  • Continued protection of places of environmental and cultural value (current protections are, apparently, going to stay in place
  • There are lots of words about mitigating climate change
  • A commitment to tree-lined streets
  • A reference to strengthening processes for managing flood risk
  • Developing a national framework of green infrastructure
  • There is reference to active transport and public transport
  • There is reference to simpler approaches to assessing environmental impacts which goes to the underlying intent of speeding up the process and which may not help with actually protecting the environment or climate change mitigation
  • There is reference to the duplication involved in the current system of Strategic Environmental Assessment, Sustainability Appraisal and Environmental Impact Assessment; however, no discussion of how these things differ and how they might be integrated.
  • Proposal 17 is about historic buildings. There is reference to these needing to be adapted to changing uses and to adapting them to climate change but there is little detail. This would be a massive change and it is important to make sure that this goes in the right direction.
  • There is also reference (Proposal 18) to ambitious improvements to energy efficiency standards for buildings (to be world leading, of course). But again, no detail. There is a suggestion that from 2025 new homes should produce CO2 emissions that are 75 – 80% lower than current.

It is astonishing that none of these proposals are considered worthy of questions in this consultation.

If there is a possibility of adding general comments at the end, I will make the point that there should have been questions relating to these sections of the consultation document. However, we have probably covered most of the key points in response to other questions.

As there was no way of adding general comments, I have put the following addendum to the final question (which doesn’t really relate to this but I felt that was the best place to put it:

Addendum – As there appears to be nowhere to comment on the consultation approach we are making the following additional comment: There appear not to be any questions in the consultation that relate to proposals 15 to 18 which relate to environmental and sustainability concerns. It is astonishing that none of these proposals are considered worthy of questions in this consultation. We have attempted to put our concerns about the implications of these proposals for sustainability where it was possible throughout the questions that were raised but the fact that these 4 proposals are not covered specifically in any of your questions is deplorable.

21. When new development happens in your area, what is your priority for what comes with it?

Other

Of course the answer to this is ‘all of the above’ but I am not sure that this is going to be an option on the online form.

It is essential that large scale developments contribute to the common good; this will include infrastructure and – where developments are on a for profit basis – a contribution to affordable/social housing.

Where possible development should be mixed residential and commercial developments as this reduces the need for commuting and is therefore much more sustainable.

Industrial and residential ghettos maximise the need for commuting, and unless properly integrated with public transport infrastructure will lead to more journeys and more isolation.  It is also essential that there are shops and community services (schools, doctors, shops etc) in any development so that people do not have to get into their cars to undertake these activities, and to help support community development. It is noticeable how much harder it is for housing developments without local shops to become communities.

The next consideration should be that large housing developments should include mixed tenures and that there should be no differentiation in the design quality for different tenures. There should be an assumption that different tenures can and should co-exist on the same streets and that affordable and social housing is not hived off to a part of the development site where it is ‘out of the way’.

The requirement for affordable/social housing and community infrastructure should be built into the development plan and business case and especially for large developers there should be the expectation that there will be a contribution to the cost.

Developers should not expect to be able to develop housing to sell at high prices without ensuring that there is proper transport infrastructure, shops, employment space and so on. The provision of Green Space should not be seen as a contribution but as a requirement without which planning permission would not be granted. Such green space should be balanced between private and public green space.

We are concerned generally that these proposals could reduce the proportion of affordable housing. The paper claims it will stay at the same level,  but we cannot afford just to keep affordable housing provision at its current level – it needs to be a much higher proportion of what is being built, and affordable needs to really be affordable. The Government needs to answer how exactly it proposes to achieve this.

A key consideration should also be how much of a contribution developers need to make to affordable housing and infrastructure and that is inadequately addressed in the consultation document.

22(a). Should the Government replace the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 planning obligations with a new consolidated Infrastructure Levy, which is charged as a fixed proportion of development value above a set threshold?

No

On Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) reform, the new levy should not only be based on the type of housing but on the carbon and environmental credentials of a building and site, effectively  offering a discount to those developers that build to the highest environmental standards and incentivising doing the right thing.

We are also concerned that the new infrastructure levy as proposed could be siphoned into non-infrastructure spending

  • Bundling affordable housing in with infrastructure – when it isn’t – could reduce the amount of affordable housing provided (an impact compounded by the proposed changes to the current system – see our consultation response to changes to the current planning system)
  •  We are opposed to the suggestion that infrastructure levy could be used for other types of spend, unrelated to development and even ‘council tax reduction’ .

Affordable housing spend must be prioritised, and infrastructure spending must be ring fenced for the infrastructure needed to enable development and especially infrastructure for low carbon living and increased biodiversity e.g.

  • Grid upgrades
  • Provision of renewable energy including solar PV on all roofs as standard
  • Rural and urban sustainable drainage
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Walking and cycle routes
  • Public transport
  • Schools, health & social care facilities
  • Community & cultural space
  • Local shops
  • Parks and green spaces
  • Allotments & other food growing space

If the new Infrastructure Levy is to be based on the value of the development, areas with low house values will lose out. This will work against ‘levelling up’.  There is some justification for higher levies where there are high house values, as the high cost of land will also mean higher costs for providing infrastructure (and affordable housing) but this needs to be balanced.  Any formula should take into account income and affordability, not just be set at a flat rate across the county.

22(b). Should the Infrastructure Levy rates be set nationally at a single rate, set nationally at an area-specific rate, or set locally?

Locally

Whilst we think that we need a Land Value Tax (LVT) in which case the CIL would be irrelevant, so long as LVT is not in place we think that the rates should be set locally within a national framework.

22(c). Should the Infrastructure Levy aim to capture the same amount of value overall, or more value, to support greater investment in infrastructure, affordable housing and local communities?

Not sure

Any infrastructure Levy should aim to maximise the funding available for affordable housing and infrastructure.

22(d). Should we allow local authorities to borrow against the Infrastructure Levy, to support infrastructure delivery in their area?

Yes

To all intents and purposes this is guaranteed income and especially if the levy is only payable at the point of occupation it would be sensible if the local authority could borrow against it to move forward quickly with its own developments – especially if that involves building of community infrastructure designed to serve the residents of the new development. It is no good having the new school or health centre ready three years after people have moved in.

23. Do you agree that the scope of the reformed Infrastructure Levy should capture changes of use through permitted development rights?

Yes

However, the change would better be delivered by a Land Value Tax, but failing that there is no reason why permitted developments should not contribute towards local infrastructure.

24(a). Do you agree that we should aim to secure at least the same amount of affordable housing under the Infrastructure Levy, and as much on-site affordable provision, as at present?

Yes

Currently the level of affordable housing, and genuinely affordable housing is far lower than is needed. It is therefore essential that the proportion increases. We also need to ensure that developers do not back out of their commitments with claims of lack of profitability for the sites.  The commitment should be legally binding and enforceable and enforced.

24(b). Should affordable housing be secured as in-kind payment towards the Infrastructure Levy, or as a ‘right to purchase’ at discounted rates for local authorities?

Not sure

See our answer to Q 23 (a); it is not about how this is done but that it is done. The one benefit we can see from the ‘right to purchase’ would be that local authorities could choose which units to purchase in order not to have affordable housing shunted to the edges of developments and limited to the less attractive areas.

24(c). If an in-kind delivery approach is taken, should we mitigate against local authority overpayment risk?

 Yes

24(d). If an in-kind delivery approach is taken, are there additional steps that would need to be taken to support affordable housing quality?

Yes

See our response to Q 23; large housing developments should include mixed tenures and that there should be no differentiation in the design quality for different tenures. There should be an assumption that different tenures can and should co-exist on the same streets and that affordable and social housing is not hived off to a part of the development site where it is ‘out of the way’.

25 Should local authorities have fewer restrictions over how they spend the infrastructure levy?

Yes

But this should not permit the money to be spent on other services at the expense of meeting housing need and ensuring high levels of energy efficiency in social housing in the area.

25 (a). If yes, should an affordable housing ring-fence be developed?

Yes

Affordable housing spend must be prioritised, and infrastructure spending must be ring fenced for the infrastructure needed to enable development and especially infrastructure for low carbon living and increased biodiversity.

26. Do you have any views on the potential impact of the proposals raised in this consultation on people with protected characteristics as defined in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010?

It is disappointing that no equality impact assessment has been carried out. Despite the claim that the Government is “mindful of its responsibility” in relation to its legal duty under s.149 of the Equality Act 2010, and the fact this is described as a White Paper, there is no evidence that any steps have been taken to comply with this duty.  The duty includes a “duty of inquiry” to find out the impact on groups with protected characteristics.

Disabled people face many more barriers than the general population, not just in terms of access to housing but also every aspect of their interface with the built environment.  BAME populations may face additional barriers due to correlation with relative income profiles and to family size.

The PSED includes the particular duty to have due regard to the need to take steps to meet the needs of people with disabilities where they differ from the needs of those without disabilities. The White paper is silent on the integration of accessibility with development.

PSED also includes the duty to have due regard to the need to tackle prejudice and promote understanding. This may be particularly relevant, for instance, to the arrangements for affordable housing. Also with regard tof Gypsy and Traveller provision – which in the White Paper has apparently been forgotten. There  should be provision in every area.

The proposals should therefore not be taken forward without a full equality impact assessment.

It is not just the planning process that needs to be more accessible, but also the developments themselves.  All developments need to be accessible both in terms of getting around the development, but also the buildings themselves.  Too often homes are being built which do not consider accessibility needs, whether this is step free access to homes or ensuring that bathrooms and toilets are accessible.  With an increasingly elderly population who wish to remain in their own home it is essential that the planning process supports homes which will be liveable throughout people’s lives.

Addendum – As there appears to be nowhere to comment on the consultation approach we are making the following additional comment: There appear not to be any questions in the consultation that relate to proposals 15 to 18 which relate to environmental and sustainability concerns. It is astonishing that none of these proposals are considered worthy of questions in this consultation. We have attempted to put our concerns about the implications of these proposals for sustainability where it was possible throughout the questions that were raised but the fact that these 4 proposals are not covered specifically in any of your questions is deplorable.

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