‘Far from clear’ how planning reforms will help build homes more quickly

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee said ministers should ‘revisit’ the proposals.

A house under construction
A house under construction

The Government should consider scrapping proposals to put areas into one of three types of development zones in planning reforms, MPs have said – or at least expand the number of categories available.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee warned that plans to designate local areas into growth, renewal or protected zones lack the necessary detail and MPs are not persuaded that the proposals will produce a cheaper, quicker and more democratic planning system.

In a 135-page report, the committee said ministers should “revisit” the proposals.

And MPs also said more information is needed on Government ambitions to build 300,000 homes a year.

Committee chairman Clive Betts said: “The Government’s aim of developing a planning system that enables buildings to be built more quickly and with greater input from local communities is welcome, but it is far from clear how the current proposals will achieve this. The Government’s three areas proposal needs to be reconsidered.

“We also need much more information about the Government’s target to build 300,000 homes every year – as well as the changes to the housing formula announced last December.”

Proposed reforms to the planning system announced in August last year put an emphasis on local plans – documents produced by local authorities outlining priorities in particular areas – to designate plots into one of the three categories, with different planning rules applying in each area.

But the committee said that if ministers do go ahead with the plans, more categories will be necessary, and more detail will be needed on infrastructure and who will be responsible if targets are not met.

Labour MP Mr Betts added: “Of course, planning also has wider impacts beyond housing. There were many issues that weren’t addressed in the Government’s proposals – including how the changes will affect the levelling-up agenda, economic recovery from Covid-19, and the environment. We ask for further information, and consultation, on all of these areas.

“Public engagement is critical in planning – and our report stresses the need for the Government to really get to grips with how it can best involve local people in the planning process. This is essential if any changes to the planning system are to be a success.

“We also highlight the need the need for the public to still be able to comment on individual planning proposals – in addition to engaging with local plans.”

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