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Consequences of new legislation must be fully understood

18th May 2022

Letter published in the West Sussex Gazette 18 May 2022


Consequences of new legislation must be fully understood

“Laws to modernise the planning system, so that more homes can be built” (Queen’s Speech 11 May 22) are included in the Government’s ‘Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill’.

Unfortunately, these laws, which have yet to be scrutinized by the Commons and Lords, do not address the fundamental problem that housebuilders will not build more houses than can be sold at an acceptable-to-them profit and in the event of diminishing sales reduce build rates, regardless of targets set by the Government’s ‘Standard Method’.

Failure to bring developers and the building industry to heel will result in yet more short falls in housing delivery, for which the Government will continue to blame and sanction councils and communities.

That no mention is made in the Bill of the Government’s formula-based Standard Method indicates that the hocus pocus formula, which generates excessive targets and takes no account of capacity or environmental impacts, will remain in use.

Questionable, too, is the Government’s intent to ensure that the supply of affordable housing is maintained at a level, which delivers at least the same amount of affordable housing as over a previous specified period.

Apparently, the Bill’s authors are unaware that Government policies have enabled developers to negotiate down the provision of affordable homes against local-plan targets on grounds of ‘viability’. This has resulted in a substantial and unconscionable undersupply of truly affordable homes, for which councils are blamed by Government.

Whether the Bill’s new laws, including time-table driven plan making, would result in less scrutiny than is required by the present system, like wise for planning applications, is a vital issue. For example, the ‘Planning for the Future White Paper’, Proposal 16, sort to “reduce the need for site specific surveys” regarding ecology, biodiversity and protected species. Is this now the Government’s intent?

It is essential that MPs who will be considering and voting on the Bill examine the proposed new laws in the detail and understand the consequences for communities and the environment. But will they?

Yours sincerely,

Dr R F Smith

Trustee CPRE Sussex