House plan­ning guid­ance is ‘too timid’, say ex-min­is­ters

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Ed­ward Mal­nick WHITE­HALL ED­I­TOR

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”

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