Remember localism? Now prepare to meet zonal planning and development corporations
If you thought the planning system was already loaded in favour of developers, things might be about to get a whole lot worse.
The government is reportedly considering a ‘zonal planning system’ in which “key decisions will be taken from local councils and handed to development corporations”.
Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, is said to be influencing the government’s approach to planning and working with Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, on a plan to “kick-start housebuilding and infrastructure spending”.
The Sunday Times reported that a “committee of experts assembled by the duo” has met to “think about very substantive changes” to planning regulations.
The panel includes Bridget Rosewell, a commissioner for the National Infrastructure Commission, property developer Sir Stuart Lipton and planning barrister Christopher Katkowski QC.
The newspaper said one of the proposed measures would allow high-street businesses to change their use “with complete flexibility”.
Further, there would be a “move to a zonal planning system where key decisions will be taken from local councils and handed to development corporations — though building on the Green Belt will not be permitted”.
In what appears part of an ominous trend, a document was published in March alongside the policy paper Planning for the Future, saying the government’s forthcoming Planning White Paper would “propose measures to accelerate planning”.
It added that the government would “trial the use of templates for drafting local development orders and other zonal tools to create simpler models and financial incentives to support more effective use”.
The Sunday Times has also reported that “Cummings and Jenrick are backing a new fast-track system for developers of high-quality, well-designed buildings”.
Asked about the media reports, a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Planning spokesman said: “The government has already set out an ambitious programme to modernise our planning system.
“Our Planning for the Future reforms will support the delivery of homes that local people need and create greener communities with more beautiful homes”.
While some local authorities can often appear less than sympathetic towards our natural environment, moves to take away their responsibility for “key decisions” and hand it to development corporations surely detract from the principle of democracy. Whatever happened to localism?