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Council calls on the government to scrap planning reform proposals and to protect residents’ rights

Following a motion agreed at the Vale of White Horse District Council meeting last month, Council Leader Emily Smith has written to the government to request that it scraps its proposed changes to planning laws in the United Kingdom which could have serious implications for local communities across the country.

In her letter to Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Cllr Smith also calls on the government:

  • to undertake a review of permitted development rights which allow development to happen without the need for planning permission;
  • to maintain the rights of local residents to engage and comment on individual planning applications;
  • to support the rights of local people, through robust Neighbourhood and Local Plan processes, to influence how their communities develop; and
  • to enable councils to set strong local planning policies to maximise protection for the environment and reduce carbon emissions.

During the Queen’s Speech on May 11, the government introduced The Planning Bill which includes proposals to change local plans, significantly decrease the time it takes for housing developments to go through the planning system, replacing the existing systems for funding affordable housing and infrastructure from development, and reforming the framework for locally led development corporations.

However, there are significant and growing concerns about the proposals across local councils, MPs of all parties and across planning, architectural and environmental organisations.  Local residents have also expressed concern that the reforms will significantly reduce the public’s right to influence planning applications and to object to building works under Permitted Development Rights, which have been extended under this government.

Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “We are very concerned that these proposed reforms are trying to solve the wrong problem.  In the Vale we are already exceeding government targets when it comes to approving applications for new housing.   However, one of our biggest issues is the need for affordable housing.  Unfortunately, the proposed reforms would make it harder rather than easier for councils to ensure that new homes will genuinely be affordable for residents to buy or rent.

“The reforms would also significantly reduce public input into the planning process, leaving communities feeling that development is being done to them and not with their consent.  This flies in the face of the much-publicised idea of localism and the traditional values on which the planning system is based.”

“We are therefore calling on the government to scrap their plans and instead to work with people from across our communities, and the planning system, on measures that are targeted in the right way and which genuinely safeguard people’s interests.”

You can read Cllr Smith’s letter to Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Cllr Smith has also sent letters opposing the government’s proposed reforms to Layla Moran MP, Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon, and to David Johnston OBE, M.P. Member of Parliament for Wantage.