To consider the Council’s response to the consultation on the Planning White Paper and the comments made to the related consultation on changes to the current planning system.
The Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder presented the report, explaining that in July, the Government had produced a white paper proposing a comprehensive redesign of the planning system, replacing the current system of local plans and development management with a rules-based system based on zoning, design codes, nationally set development management policies, nationally set housing requirements and permissions in principle, increased permitted development rights and technical approvals based on rules based policies with most community engagement to take place at the local plan stage. The White Paper called ‘Planning for the Future’ was attached to the report in the supporting documents and was had been out for consultation until the end of October 2020. Because the date of the Cabinet meeting had moved from 28 October to 5 November, due to competing priorities around Local Government Reform, a response to this significant White Paper had had to be submitted ahead of the Cabinet meeting which had originally been scheduled to take place on 28 October. Endorsement of that response, attached as Appendix 1 to the report, was, therefore, being requested.
The implementation of the new system would require primary legislation and, as an interim measure, a number of measures were also proposed to amend the existing system. These included:-
· changes to the Standard Method used by Government for calculating local housing need;
· changes to Affordable Housing including the introduction of a requirement for a proportion of ‘first homes’ (essentially discounted homes for sale) as part of affordable housing contributions;
· a temporary increase in the minimum size of site required to provide affordable housing from ten to 40-50 for a limited period of 18 months (not applicable in designated rural areas); and
· extending the right to apply for Permission in Principle to major development.
These were considered within the report and the detailed response attached as Appendix 2.
The report further outlined details relating to delivery and information on the timetable for delivery.
A lengthy discussion ensued. Concern was raised with regard to the impact on rurality and communities, and at the lack of detail on the future and protection of the environment. Concern was further raised regarding the provision of affordable houses and the proposal that Section 106 agreements be substituted with a development levy. A problem already existed with developers raising arguments around viability and seeking reductions in the percentage of affordable housing on developments. It was felt that the same argument could be used with regard to a development levy. This could result in problems for housing associations that depended on acquiring additional properties through Section 106 agreements and, if this opportunity disappeared, this raised the question of how the development grant was worked and provided back to them to fund new building. This could lead to housing associations developing their own estates, which was very costly, given the value of land, which would make it increasingly difficult for affordable housing to be developed. Also raised was the need to raise building regulations and increase the efficiency and sustainability of houses at a national level. It was felt that the current planning system was impracticable, that something needed to be done, and it was hoped that appropriate compromises could be made. A further concern was raised in relation how the proposals fitted in with the Localism Act.
The Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder believed that the proposals were seriously deficient, taking power away from local areas, reducing affordable homes and reducing democracy and local accountability. The proposals did nothing to address climate change, changed Section 106 requirements and deferred payments. Not addressed, he said, was the impact on councils’ housing’s targets. He also felt that co-operation between councils could be damaged and environmental impacts on neighbouring authorities ignored. He also questioned the way in which the proposals were to be implemented through zoning. He pointed out that the concerns raised had been addressed with in the response to the White Paper and urged Members to use their channels of communication to express their concerns to Government.
The Strategy Lead Specialist provided clarity on the proposals around delivery of affordable housing, with the replacement of Section 106 agreements by a single levy and the potential impact.
The Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder thanked Members for their comments, welcoming broad cross-party support. He stressed the need, where possible, for engagement with Government in seeking the best outcome. If enshrined in law, these proposals would have a significant and long lasting impact on South Lakeland’s communities and on the built environment.
Thanks were expressed by all to the Strategy Lead Specialist and his Team and to all involved.
The Leader asked the meeting if the motion was agreed. There was no dissent.
RESOLVED – That the following be endorsed:-
(1) the comments in Appendix 1 to the report as South Lakeland District Council’s response to the consultation on the Planning White Paper; and
(2) the comments made to the related consultation on changes to the current planning system attached as Appendix 2 to the report.
Reasons for Decision
The planning system is a key means by which the Council Plan is delivered. The proposals in the White Paper, if implemented, will significantly affect the Council’s ability to deliver economic growth, affordable housing, sustainable development and healthy communities, as well as the carbon reduction and biodiversity issues.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
The Council does not have to respond to the consultation. However, the White Paper raises major concerns and, whilst it cannot be guaranteed that Government will respond to those concerns, it is vital that these are conveyed to Government.