In February 2016 the government asked for comments on the implementation of planning changes in England and Wales which will inform the “mechanics” of how measures set out in the Housing and Planning Bill will work.
In its formal response, Lambeth Council has raised several areas of concern including:
- Planning application fees
- Permission in principle
- Brownfield register
- Neighbourhood planning
- Local plans
- Changes to statutory consultation on planning applications
Although Lambeth council agrees that fees should be increased in line with inflation, it believes penalising underperforming authorities would mean they would lack the resources to improve their service and may focus solely on timeliness rather than quality.
Lambeth has asked the government to reconsider ‘one size fits all’ planning fees, arguing that in London, planning applications for even small-scale development can generate considerable public interest and require many hours of officer time, not covered by the current fee system. The council says that any ‘fast track’ service should be set locally rather than nationally.
The council opposes the idea of brownfield land registers being used as a means of granting Permission in Principle (PiP) for housing, warning the proposal contradicts the sustainable development objectives set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. The council would have less ability to fully assess the impacts of developments and other critical strategic aspects of plan-making – such as land for employment, infrastructure planning, discussions with neighbouring authorities–would become of secondary importance to the detriment of economic growth, the quality and cohesiveness of communities.
Lambeth adds that the proposal will result in consultation fatigue and confusion in communities, who will have to be consulted on local plans, neighbourhood plans and now brownfield registers on an annual basis while at the same time making it harder for local people to comment on detailed plans – technical consents.
The council warns of public disengagement from planning, reinforcing the ‘usual suspects’ scenario whereby a small number of well-resourced individuals tend to dominate the process. It is completely unrealistic to expect harder-to-reach groups to keep up with this level of engagement. This has significant negative implication for equality and fairness.
A council spokesman said: “ We have expressed, in detail, our grave concerns about the government’s proposals, not least because many of them are simply not workable in London with its complexity, density and pressures on land. Sensible, coherent planning means making sure that sustainable communities rather than ghettoes thrive, where jobs, schools and transport infrastructure is integral to releasing land for development and where local people have a real say in how their neighbourhood is shaped.”