After persistent calls for a rethink, ministers have backed down from their plans and now acknowledge that any new system will have ‘effective local engagement at its heart’
The rethink is evident in a submission from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG; now known as the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) to their colleagues in the House of Lords’ committee looking at the built environment.
Far from the original government plans for decisions on new buildings to operate at a zonal level, with some permissions assumed granted based on the zone, the wording of the submission now suggests that changes to the planning system will keep local democracy at their core.
The submission says that an updated planning system will be ‘continuing to require consultation on the details of development proposals as they come forward,’ and that the system will have ‘effective local engagement at its heart, with community views central to decisions’.
‘There will be a continuing role for public consultation as part of the planning application process. Even where the broad principle of development is agreed through the plan, all the details would still need to be consulted on with communities and statutory consultees, and approved by officers or committees where appropriate.’
The Countryside Charity CRE welcomed the move:
Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy, said:
‘Up until now we only had unconfirmed rumours that much-maligned planning reforms – which would have devastated local democracy – were going to be watered down.
‘The government’s submission to the Lords Built Environment Committee strongly suggests it has listened to criticism and fundamentally changed its approach. If so, this would be a huge victory for campaigners.’