Council speaks out against Government ‘damaging’ planning changes

Release Date: 06 March 2018

The Leader of Richmond Council has spoken out against a Government announcement that threatens to ‘strip’ councils of their planning powers if not enough homes are being built in their areas.

Yesterday, Housing Secretary Sajid Javid MP, announced an overhaul of planning rules in an attempt to increase the rate of house building in England.

A new planning policy framework, which the Government will now consult on, contains proposals which will determine how many homes councils must build - taking into account local house prices, wages and key worker numbers. Higher targets will be set for areas where house prices outstrip annual earnings.

For those councils who do not reach their required targets, Mr Javid threatened sanctions to force through development. This includes stripping councils of their planning powers and putting in place independent inspectors.

This follows an open letter to residents from the Council Leader in January, regarding the Mayor of London’s London Plan consultation.

Responding to yesterday’s  announcement, Cllr Hodgins, said:

“Richmond upon Thames currently meets its existing targets for housing delivery. As I said in my open letter to residents about the Mayor’s London plan, I agree that we need to continue to deliver more housing, and a new approach is needed for the future. However, I believe this simple chase for housing numbers leading to uncontrolled development by both the Government and the Mayor is not the answer. 

“What we need is strategic, planned development which takes account of the local context and preserves strong village communities. We also need investment and proper planning of associated infrastructure, including transport, schools, and employment space. That infrastructure does not come with willy-nilly development at whatever the cost. 

“In practice this could mean that our planning committee could make a decision on an application, based on local consultation and policies. However, an independent inspector could overturn this decision and insist on more housing. This could effectively not just disenfranchise a local planning committee but the legitimate voice of our local residents who support our local policy and plans.

“This is about protecting and where possible enhancing our heritage, our beauty, our villages and communities and this is best done at a local level. 

“I do very much welcome the proposal for new rules on the amount of acceptable time developments should be built once planning permission is granted. 

“However, rushing forward with plans to ‘punish’ councils in a bid to simply increase housing numbers will have a negative impact on our borough, one that is pro-intelligent, joined up and proportionate development.

“Rather than “breathing down the necks” of councils, I would recommend both the Government and the Mayor to engage with Councils on this issue, rather than threaten. We will make this clear in our response to the consultation. Together we need a national, workable, strategy – rather than one that simply won’t work.”

Notes for editors

If you are a journalist and would like further information about this press release, contact Elinor Firth on 020 8487 5159. 

Reference: P129/18

Updated: 29 March 2018