Stop the Tory Power Grab in planning - Chelmsford City Council objects to Government proposals

October 14, 2020 8:27 PM

Stop the Tory Power Grab in planningMany more new houses in Chelmsford; less public input into planning applications; less infrastructure investment and fewer affordable homes. These could be consequences of changes to the planning system proposed by the Government, and Chelmsford City Council has expressed opposition.

The City Council approved its response to the Government's 'Planning for the Future' White Paper at the Policy Board on Thursday 1 October.

The proposed adjustment to the standard method for setting new home building numbers would result in Chelmsford's yearly housing target almost doubling from 805 a year to more than 1,500 homes per year, something Chelmsford City Council feels is unacceptable and unachievable. 

The Government's revised planning system involves scrapping "Section 106 payments" - money paid by a developer to contribute towards education, affordable homes and infrastructure to mitigate the impact of a development - and replacing them with a national infrastructure levy. 

Under the White Paper, initiatives include quicker development and creating zones: categorising land into growth, renewal or protection, which could reduce a Council's ability to decide what development goes where. Areas that are labelled as growth are expected to have outline planning permission in place that would allow developers to create housing without councils debating the principle of the scheme. 

Homes in the renewal areas could be permitted either through a prior approval process, a faster planning application process or a Local Development Order. 
In discussing the White Paper consultation, members agreed the Council's response should reflect and emphasise concerns that the proposals in the White Paper will:

  • Reduce public engagement and consultation in the production of Local Plans and reduce or remove the right for residents to object to subsequent planning applications near them
  • Grant automatic planning permission for developers to build on land identified as 'for growth'
  • Remove section 106 payments and the Community Infrastructure Levy for infrastructure, to the disadvantage of Chelmsford
  • Increase the number of dwellings required to be built in the future per annum from 805 in the recently adopted Local Plan (which was worked out as our local need) to in excess of 1,500 per annum using the Government's new national method - an increase of 94%
  • Reduce the delivery of more genuinely affordable homes, whereas the focus should be on speeding up that delivery to meet the increasing demand
  • Weaken the importance of environmental assessments and not sufficiently take into consideration the provisions in the Climate Change Act 2008 that address carbon dioxide emission standards for future housing stock; and
  • Put at risk archaeology and heritage by undermining pre-commencement archaeological conditions

Leader of Chelmsford City Council, Councillor Stephen Robinson, said, "The Government proposals will limit the ability of local councils to influence local development. Housing targets would be set by central government using an updated calculation. It would also see the end of the Section 106 developer contributions scheme that earmarks money for social housing and community infrastructure, which would be a huge loss for the city." 

He added, "The scope of the proposed changes is considerable and if the reforms are implemented as outlined, they would have significant implications for all local planning authorities. We hope that the Government will recognise the strength of opposition from councils of all colours."

The Conservatives' planning proposals will reduce residents' opportunity to have their say on local planning applications.

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