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Proposals for radical reform of planning system could have 'huge implications'

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West Berkshire Council has major concerns over Government's planning for the white paper

THE Government’s proposals for a radical reform of the planning system in England could have “huge implications” for West Berkshire, the district council has warned.

The Planning For The Future White Paper, which was published last month, aims to speed up the decision-making process so homes can be built quicker where they are needed the most.

The reforms include redrawing Local Plans produced by the local planning authority (LPA) so that land would fall into only one of three categories – growth, renewal or protected.

Planning would be ‘automatically secured’ for areas categorised for growth, some development would be allowed in renewal areas, but would be restricted in protected zones.

In addition, affordable housing would only be sought on developments of more than 40 units.

However, in a 14-page response to the paper, West Berkshire Council’s planning officers have raised a number of concerns about the proposals.

In its draft response to the consultation, the council said: “Judging by the comments in the White Paper, we anticipate that most of our area would be an area for ‘protection’.

“This would mean that the majority of the annual requirement would have to be squeezed in to the few urban areas.”

It added: “The proposal also fails to fit with our experience of how the planning system operates.

“The proposals rely upon accurately predicting how developers and landowners will want to develop their sites in the future, but in our experience this can change substantially over time and the development that comes forward is rarely the same as that which was proposed at the time the plan was drafted.”

It went on to say: “Local areas will lose much of the control that they have over the form of development, leaving only location and design in their hands.

“They will no longer have the ability to set policies that respond to their own local priorities and deliver the development that the local community needs.

“This will lead to a further deterioration in confidence in the planning system.”

In summary, the council said: “The proposals have potential benefits but also huge implications, and may well not work in the manner intended, with risks including inappropriate design and mass for a particular setting within a zone, poor-quality development and, in some cases, actual suppression of supply.”

The council also wants to see financial penalties imposed if the development is not built out in the timescales on the approved plans.

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