House planning guidance is ‘too timid’, say ex-ministers
MINISTERS have been warned not to “cop out” of a major reform to encourage building and ease the pressure on the housing market, as the Government announced a scaled-back version of a plan pushed by senior Conservatives.
Nick Boles, the former planning minister, said proposals to help developers and home owners to extend the height of properties in major cities were “not enough” without new powers for the extensions to be built without formal planning permission.
Today, Sajid Javid, the Housing Sec- retary, announces plans to amend planning guidance to encourage councils to look favourably on upward development in densely populated areas.
But the plans fall short of a “build up, not out” scheme pushed by senior Conservatives last year, which would give some households the right to build upwards without going through the formal planning process.
The plan, put forward by John Penrose, a former architecture minister, last year, centred on extending the “permitted development” scheme under which parliament grants a general planning permission for certain types of work, meaning specific approval is not required from local authorities each time. Mr Penrose’s proposals would have meant that a home owner could extend the height of their building to match the tallest building in its “block” in urban areas, or to the height of mature local trees, without having to go through the formal planning process. He has argued that the move would help regenerate “tired or rundown” town and city centres by creating new mansion blocks, and head off the pressure from developers to build on greenfield sites.
Under the Government plans announced today, home owners will have to follow the usual planning process, but the National Planning Policy Framework will be updated to encourage councils to look favourably on applications for upward extensions.
But Mr Penrose and Mr Boles questioned whether simply amending planning guidance would have a significant effect.
Mr Boles said: “Planning authorities will often find reasons to refuse some- thing despite such new policies and that it’s only by introducing a permitted development right that you actually unlock a real momentum behind a change. If it’s a policy it’s a cop-out, but if it’s a permitted development right it would be very significant.”
Mr Penrose also questioned why ministers appeared to be confining the revised guidance to major cities.
He said: “Ministers are absolutely right that overhauling our slow, expensive, uncertain and conflict-ridden planning laws, is the right way to start. But if these ideas don’t apply to all towns and cities, and don’t give urban buildings the right to go up without red tape, they will still be too timid.”
Nick Boles, the former planning minister, said: “If it’s a policy it’s a cop-out”