Countering the misconceptions driving the Government’s planning reform agenda
This is one of the most important reports on planning reform produced in the last decade. It is published at a crucial time for the future of democratic planning in England with the real prospect that a system designed to uphold the public interest will be effectively extinguished by the end of The report represents a serious heavyweight analysis from a group of the nation’s leading planning academics. Such collaborations are rare and demonstrate the depth of concern over the direction of planning reform. Each of the contributions shines a light on an aspect of the mythology that has driven planning reform. They demonstrate how these myths have led to a huge and misdirected effort by government which has failed to deliver the quantity of decent homes we need but has fatally damaged public trust and democratic accountability.
In short, the report notes:
Dysfunctional housing markets
Around 90% of applications for planning permission are approved in England. Consent has been granted for between 800,000 to 1,000,000 new houses that remain unbuilt. The planning system in England is already permissive and more than capable of supplying land to the market. The failure to build new housing is not a result of excessive state regulation, but of dysfunctional markets and a failure to invest in social housing. Further deregulating the planning system simply will not resolve the crisis of housing affordability.
The government is overstating the costs of discretionary decision-making and the benefits of zoning. Evidence from other countries with zoning systems in place suggest that they do not necessarily improve efficiency or outcomes, and that they can lead to bad decisions because they are inflexible in the face of changing circumstances
More power to developers
These reforms will afford power to the already privileged to pursue development in their own self interest, irrespective of whether this benefits the wider community.
LA Planning resources cut
England has a poorly resourced (- 20 % since 2010*) and highly permissive planning system, which produces outcomes that favour the interests of property developers. There is no evidence to suggest that a more permissive approach will improve the quality of our built environment or address the inequalities generated by market-led development. Good design, for example, will not result from the automatic application of standardised codes and pattern books.
There are real dangers of digital exclusion of many in our community in any wholesale move towards e-participation. The proposals in the White Paper also cut in half existing opportunities to engage with the system by removing the public’s right to comment on planning applications and restricting it to plan making and design codes.
Following decades of piecemeal reform and underfunding, our planning system is weak. It lacks the powers it needs to create high quality development. From the tragedy of Grenfell Tower to the scandalous shortage of decent, affordable housing and the looming threat of climate breakdown, there is overwhelming evidence that the prevailing model of light-touch regulation and market-driven change has failed.
Here is the full report THE WRONG ANSWERS TO THE WRONG QUESTIONS Countering the misconceptions driving the Government’s planning reform agenda
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