Tuesday, 03 March 2015

Minister 'not for turning' on planning reforms

Housebuilders are ‘crap’ at communicating their development plans to local communities and must show greater ‘maturity and restraint’ in where they build, according to a government minister.

Planning minister Bob Neill launched his broadside on developers at a Social Market Foundation fringe session at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester and added that he was ‘not for turning’ on proposed planning reforms.

When asked about the implementation of a controversial measure contained in the draft national planning policy framework which would see a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’, Mr Neill said: ‘The industry needs to help itself here – it is crap at communications if I may say.

‘You are seen as predators for greenfield land…the industry needs to show maturity and restraint in terms of where it goes for development. What is best for the balance sheet might not always be best for local communities,’ he added.

The government’s proposed planning reforms, contained in the Localism Bill and the draft NPPF, have led to accusations from the National Trust, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and others that the plans will lead to valuable green spaces being lost to development.

Mr Neill said: ‘We are not for turning – we are for listening. We are determined to get a more effective system. Yes, we are willing to talk about how we phrase things, but the idea that we must simplify the system is the key thing.’

Commenting on a warning from the National Housing Federation that proposals in the NPPF around will result in a dramatic fall in homes provided through the ‘planning gain’ or section 106 system, Mr Neill said: ‘I do think that section 106 took longer to negotiate than the actual consent [for the overall scheme], so this was ridiculous. I think perhaps the community infrastructure levy [council charge on developments and used to fund infrastructure] has more to offer here.

‘We want to get a sensible means of more affordable housing delivery,’ he added.

Speaking at the same session, Chris Tinker, regeneration chairman at Crest Nicholson, said: ‘Developers should be responsive to well-developed local plans. But I am finding that we are having to do this work as local authorities simply haven’t done the work to assess demand, so we have to step in.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • How much communication is required to build next to those who don't want anything in their back gardens? NIMBY

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  • Nicole M

    If S106 took longer to negotiate than actual consent, this is mainly because developers spent ages trying to wriggle out of their planning obligations. I'm sure negotiations could have been concluded much more quickly if they had just agreed to provide whatever the council's policies requested.

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