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Letter: ‘Proposed planning changes are seriously flawed’

14th August 2020

Letter published by the West Sussex County Times, 13 August 2020


‘Proposed planning changes are seriously flawed’

On 6 August, the Government released for consultation (closing 29 October) its ‘Planning for the Future’, White Paper, the purpose of which is to increase exponentially and accelerate the building of new homes by scrapping the existing planning system, and contrary to statements by Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP, minimizing the role of communities and their elected representatives in decision taking.

This contentious White Paper and the draconian measures ‘proposed’ therein are seriously flawed. Seriously flawed, because the authors neither acknowledge nor address the fundamental reality that developers and housebuilders will not build more houses than can be sold at an acceptable to them profit – and in the event of diminishing sales, due to economic downturn, will reduce build rates regardless of targets set by the Government for councils.

Instead, rather than challenge and call to account developers/builders, the Government prefers to blame councils, communities and the planning system.

Released by the Government on the same day for consultation (closing 1 October), but without publicity, is the equally contentious ‘Changes to the current planning system. Consultation on changes to planning policy and regulations’, including changes to the ‘Standard Method’ for assessing housing numbers in strategic plans’.

Use of the new method would increase Horsham District’s ‘minimum housing need’ from the current Standard Method 920 homes per year to 1,715 homes per year, therefore from 16,560 to an unprecedented 30,870 over the period of HDC’s new local plan (yet to be approved).

This would have huge ramifications for Horsham District. HDC’s having to accommodate 30,870 new homes would result in areas outside of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the South Downs National Park being designated ‘Growth Areas’, ‘for substantial development’, controlled by Government-appointed ‘Development Corporations’, with automatic approval for applications to build, as proposed in the ‘Planning for the Future’ consultation White Paper.

I urge all who care for the future of Horsham District, its communities, countryside and natural environment, to examine the Government’s proposals and respond to these pivotal consultations.

‘Changes to the current planning system Consultation on changes to planning policy and regulations’ closing 1 October.

‘Planning for the Future White Paper’ closing 29 October.

Yours faithfully,
Dr Roger F Smith
Trustee CPRE Sussex