In response to the Government’s announcement of reform to the National Planning Policy Framework, a District Councils’ Network spokesperson, said:
“District councils play a vital role as local planning authorities in delivering the new homes that our communities desperately need and the developments that bring jobs and investment to our places. Over the past year we’ve granted 87% of the planning applications we received. The new homes we deliver are an integral part of our wider role in driving economic development and investing more than £1.6bn of government regeneration funding.
“Some of the proposals in the new National Planning Policy Framework are welcome. It is good news that councils with an up-to-date local plan will no longer have to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply. This will cut bureaucracy for local councils who know which areas are suitable for development and will reduce inappropriate developments being forced on communities against local wishes.
“While it is right that planning authorities are accountable for their performance, we are sceptical about the introduction of league tables, which can often be misleading because not all factors are within an authority’s control and they don’t take into account the different challenges each council faces.
“All councils want to deliver the right new homes for their communities. The best way to do that is to have a robust and sustainable local plan. There are many reasons why it can be hard to implement a local plan as quickly as the Local Planning Authority would like. Intervention by central government should be a last resort when it is demonstrably clear that a delay in putting the local plan in place is entirely due to factors within the authority’s control.
“We are concerned that the new NPPF will make it harder for planning committees to block developments that have been ‘approved in principle’ by officers. We feel strongly that this undermines the democratic, plan-led process, which involves local councillors and officers using their collective expertise to assess the evidence to make decisions that deliver for their local communities.
“As planning authorities, district councils are committed to ensuring that new development gives our communities the homes and business opportunities they need to prosper in the coming decades. It is vital for new housing and infrastructure to meet high environmental standards to prepare our communities for climate change and reduce energy bills into the bargain. So it is extremely disappointing that the Government is actively discouraging Local Planning Authorities from putting in place higher energy efficiency standards in their local plans.
“We welcome the Government’s first allocations of funding from the Planning Skills Delivery Fund and the recent increases in planning fees. However, these extra resources are not enough to overcome the chronic workforce and resource challenges facing council planning teams. We need greater investment in training and recruitment, as well as better funding of planning departments to be sustained for years. We continue to call for all planning fees to be set locally to cover the full costs of the planning process, which otherwise have to be subsidised by the rest of the community.”