Conservative Party Backbenchers may Oppose New Planning Rules

By Akeem Iginla

The Conservative Party seems to be divided on the issue of the proposed changes to the planning rules as 55%, more than half on the backbenches, are considering not supporting the Government overhaul of the planning system as set out in the Planning White Paper. The majority of backbenchers, 88%, are of the view that local people should have a voice on specific planning applications in their community and that the Government’s proposed changes would remove this right if implemented

The Government has indicated that it is in the process of changing the housing algorithm element of the planning proposals which is welcomed by many, but recent research shows that Conservative Members of Parliament have concerns with other key elements of the Government’s changes to planning.

It has been said that the proposed changes to the planning rules would only benefit the developer, as it would hand more power to them at the detriment of local communities. A survey carried out on 78% of Conservative backbenchers MPs, indicates they are of the opinion that large housebuilders would not provide good quality well designed development, unless they are kept under strict scrutiny to deliver the homes and spaces community need.

The survey carried out by Savanta ComRes, quizzed 40 Conservative backbenchers MPs in English constituencies on their opinions of the Government changes to the planning system, and the impacts they may have on local democratic participation, locally valued green spaces and countryside, action to deal with climate change and the delivery of quality affordable homes.

There has been fierce opposition to these changes to the planning system by Government from local communities, councillors, MPs and former Conservative Prime Ministers. Many of those opposing the changes fear that local people would lose their voice over specific planning applications and specific sites in their community, and that there will be pressure to build on green space, including the unrestrictive power the changes would give to developers and large housebuilders who are considered not too fair and transparent with local residents.

Many MPs and interested parties have sounded the alarm that that the implementation of the Planning White Paper will not deliver thriving countryside communities and more homes with access to green space.

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “In the face of grave challenges, we’re calling on Ministers to take this opportunity to review key elements of the planning proposals, learn the lessons of lockdown and deliver the homes and places that support healthy, vibrant communities”.

The majority of the Conservative backbenchers were of the opinion that large housebuilders should provide Zero carbon homes that local people need and can afford, with the developers building in locations that the local people would want to see developed, including local people having the right to choose and prioritise the most suitable development sites which the proposed Zonal planning system would exclude.

Most of the MPs are favourably disposed to the role of local people participation in the decision making of planning matters that affects them and accountability by their strong opposition to the proposed Government changes to the planning system.

Several charities have been campaigning for a democratic, locally-led planning system that will deliver affordable homes and tackle the issue of climate change, whilst providing more access to green space for everyone – the CPRE, has been at the heart of this. They strongly believe that by local communities should be left to decide when, how and where will be developed in their locality.

The CPRE charity is of the opinion that the implementation of the Government Planning White Paper would erode confidence in Government and remove genuine local participation and discourse on how their locality is shaped in terms of planning.

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