Planning reforms bad news for environment

| 11th August 2020
We need more than tree-lined streets to deal with nature and climate crises

These planning reforms are bad news for our communities, climate, and local democracy.

The UK Government's overhaul of planning rules will “dilute” democratic oversight, choke off affordable housing and lead to the creation of “slum” dwellings, according to Alan Jones, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). 

Responding to government plans revealed to overhaul the planning system, Kate Gordon, senior planner at Friends of the Earth, said: “These planning reforms are bad news for our communities, climate, and local democracy.

“Ditching key safeguards, such as environmental impact assessments and curtailing local democratic scrutiny will only fuel fears that this is little more than a developers charter. This threatens a wave of poor development in the wrong location, and will undermine confidence in the planning system."

Disempowering

Gordon continued: “We need more than tree-lined streets to deal with the nature and climate crises we face. This calls for a robust planning system that protects the interests of local communities and helps us emerge from the pandemic in a green and fairer way. It is hard to see how these ill-thought out proposals will achieve these things.”

The plans constitute a reduction in democratic accountability and public scrutiny by undermining the ability of councils to set local planning policies and determine planning applications. Under the proposals, the development management process would be 'streamlined' with automatic planning permission for schemes in line with plans. 

The delegation of detailed planning decisions to planning officers where the principle of development has been established fails to recognise the role that public, democratic scrutiny of planning proposals (especially large or controversial proposals) plays in ensuring decisions are fair, transparent, with the impacts fully considered. 

The poor outcomes of permitted development are well documented, with homes in unsuitable locations, failing to meet basic standards or be in line with Local Plan requirements, yet the reforms restricts planning authorities' ability to set local planning policies in line with the needs of their area and community aspirations, undermines the plan-led system, disempowering councils and communities. 

This Article 

Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from Friends of the Earth. 

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