Government’s Planning White Paper to Take Decision Making from Local People

As the Portfolio Holder for Planning I believe in the power of democratic planning to shape a fair and sustainable future for everyone. The planning system must operate in the public interest and should be democratically accountable and genuinely participative and must reflect the different needs of the country.

I believe the best people to make local decisions are local people and that the current proposals in the Government’s White Paper will undermine that principle. As was seen with the National Planning Policy Framework introduced in 2012 by the then Conservative and Lib Dem coalition, changes to planning by the Conservatives put the interests of big developers over the interests and needs of local communities.

Many residents already feel a democratic deficit when it comes to planning and I am concerned that replacing consultation on specific items with consultation on Local Plans (5-yearly Strategic Plans) will only make people feel further removed from local decisions. I also wait to hear more details about their plan to replace Section 106 funding with a Community Infrastructure Levy. There is concern that some developers get away with not paying their fair share in Section 106 funding and I am concerned that the new guidelines would create more exemptions for developers.

As a council committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2028, we know how important green space and biodiversity is towards that goal, as well as being important to people’s quality of life. Sustainability should not be seen to be in conflict with economic growth and the government’s White Paper should reflect that.

At the same time I recognise the demand for housing in our city with large numbers of people on the current waiting list. It is our experience that planning legislation and decisions are not what prevents us from building more homes for local people. Rather it is the limitations of borrowing against the Housing Revenue Account (how the Government expects council’s to fund council house building) and restrictions on the use of Right To Buy refunds, which means that there is insufficient funding to build homes, unnecessary restrictions on spending RTB refund money. Also RTB means council houses are lost at a faster rate than we can build them. Nottingham City Council has lobbied the government on these issues a number of times