Local Planning

Big builders lobbied for loophole in planning regs to overcome local wishes

The housing development industry lobbied cabinet ministers for planning rules which have created a loophole that is enabling them to override local objections to new estates.

At the heart of the problem is a clause in the Planning Policy Framework of 2012 which reads:

Housing applications should be considered in the context of the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Relevant policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up-to-date if the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites.

“Sustainable” is difficult to pin down but the PPF relies on a United Nations definition of, “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

But the real problem for communities that accept the need for new housing and are prepared to allocate land is that many local planning authorities, including Mid Suffolk, cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of land for housing. The result is the big developers can override local wishes onwhere houses should be built.

Neither is there a Local Plan for Mid Suffolk. The effort and money Taylor Wimpey has put into lobbying for changes in the draft Mid Suffolk plan, in particular as they relate to their plans for 640 houses in Debenham, indicates its importance.

Going back to 2010, when the PPF was being drawn up, the House Builders Federation mounted, in private, an intensive lobby of government ministers (Guardian) for the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” to be included.

The newspaper reported:

…the Home Builders Federation (HBF) demanded the presumption, using a strongly worded private letter that was circulated to Chancellor George Osborne, the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, the business secretary, Vince Cable, and the ministers for housing and planning, Grant Shapps and Greg Clark. The federation’s representatives said the clause “must be introduced immediately”, and that it was among the “absolutely essential requirements” of new planning policy.

The builders stressed that their communication was a “private letter to you and your ministerial colleagues and key government officials, which we are not planning to release to the press”.

Footnote: On January 24 I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Mid Suffolk District Council for details of contact with Taylor Wimpey over the past two years. On Friday last week I was asked to agree to an extra 20 daysbefore they have to respond which would give them until March 19. The reason they give is that one of the planners involved has been on leave.

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