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Letter: Government's desire to please developers

Thursday, 31 May 2018 08:22

Letter published by the West Sussex Gazette, 23 May 2018



Government’s belief - and desire to please developers

Public consultation on the content of the new NPPF (the NPPF Draft Text Consultation), which is to replace the existing NPPF in July, closed 10 May.

Underlying the Government’s intention to replace the existing NPPF is its mistaken belief, expressed by then Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, that Councils are responsible for the housing shortage because, in the Government’s view, they did not “really want to build homes that their local community needs”, that should they fail to meet annual targets they would be “stripped of their right to decide what gets built in their areas” - and that existing rules had to be changed ‘to ease the planning process' for developers (Sunday Times 04March2018).  

This desire to please developers by making it easier for them to obtain permissions, and also to increase their profits, is reflected in the ‘Draft Text for Consultation.

Hence, for example, the impossible-to-achieve requirement for communities to update their Neighbourhood Plans within two years of their being approved at referendum; the abandonment of the existing NPPF requirement that: “Planning policies and decisions should be based on up-to-date information about the natural environment and other characteristics of the area”; the retention of the ‘viability’ test, which has enabled developers to deliver fewer social and affordable homes than is required by local plans, and to justify their under-deliver of essential infrastructure.

Adherence by the Government to its false ‘councils are to blame for the housing shortage’ mantra, despite the substantial body of evidence to the contrary, is indicative of the extent to which developers are able to influence planning policies.

This close relationship may explain the apparent unwillingness of Ministers to provide Councils with the enforceable means needed, and requested by the Local Government Association, to ensure that developers meet annual house-building targets and five year requirements.

Instead, Council’s will continue to be blamed when developers under-deliver against targets, and the ‘presumption in favour’ will be invoked to enable these same developers to impose development on communities – and elected representatives at Westminster will, as now, acquiesce?

Yours faithfully,

Dr R F Smith
Trustee CPRE Sussex

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