Housing Minister keen to dispel ‘Myths’ about Government planning reforms
Speaking at the CIH Housing 2020 Conference, Government Housing Minister Christopher Pincher spent time ‘myth busting’ the criticisms of his planning reforms.
Praise for Key Workers
At 1.30pm on Monday 10th August 2020, virtual delegates eagerly awaited the live keynote session from Mr. Pincher, keen to learn what news and additional insights the Government were prepared to share on the Housing sector.
Before addressing the merits of the Government’s “Planning for the Future” white paper, the Minister took time to praise the people that “have shown resilience in face of the coronavirus emergency,” applauding doctors, nurses, teachers, and key workers of all descriptions.
There was praise too for social landlords and housing associations, and the housing and construction sectors who Mr. Pincher said had “stepped up” to embrace change to ensure the needs of the community were met.
Overhauling the current Planning System
“We are overhauling our antiquated planning system” said the Housing Minister of the “Planning for the Future” white paper published on 6th August 2020.
He outlined that the far-reaching reforms proposed in the 84-page document will make it “quicker, easier, and more affordable” than ever before to build homes by reducing burdens on house builders and developers.
The emphasis of the reforms will be centred around reducing “risks, delays, and costs”, and accelerating the planning process through digitisation of the process.
Busting the “3 myths” of planning reforms
As to be expected with any significant restructure to established legislation, there have been criticisms of the proposed reforms since publication.
The housing minister was keen to set the record straight in response to those criticisms, describing them as “baseless myths,” whilst he addressed each in turn.
1. The changes will diminish local government decision making
New proposals set out by the white paper propose a zonal planning system that places land into 3 categories protected, renewal and growth.
Plans also remove current methods of developer contributions for affordable housing by replacing Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy payments with a new system that is based on a nationally fixed levy based on predicted market value once the project is completed.
Chrisopher Pincher dismissed the view that the changes would diminish local Government decision-making, arguing that they would actually “ensure real consultation with local communities from the very beginning of the planning process”.
He also stressed the importance of involving local communities in planning, making the process more strategic and proactive, rather than the costly reactionary behaviour of the past.
2. The planning reforms sweep away environmental protection and undermine green belt
“We categorically are not weakening environmental protections,” Mr. Pincher affirmed to the watching virtual audience.
As part of this, local developers will be asked to commit to ‘green’ infrastructure in their projects. He cited such as examples as community orchards, green roofs, and tree lined streets as methods of integrating nature into urban design, replicating World leading examples such as the tree lined streets of Paris.
3. Too much focus on the South of England, not enough on the North
The third and final myth identified by Mr Pincher was that changes to the way local housing need is assessed would benefit the South of England far more than the North, contrary to the government’s “levelling-up” agenda outlined in the Conservative election campaign back in 2019.
This levelling up agenda attempts to address the apparent inequality between areas of the North when compared to the South of England, underperforming and left-behind parts of the UK are provided with the means to reach parity.
An “increase in the number of homes being built across the whole country” will be realised in the longer term, said Mr. Pincher. There will also be a sharp focus on “delivering more homes in the least affordable areas.”
Christopher Pincher’s keynote speech was just one of the highlights of the Housing 2020 conference taking place between 7th – 11th September.
Be sure to register for the event and check out some of the great speaker sessions that the event has to offer.
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