New powers to boost housebuilding through neighbourhood plans and 'permission in principle'

New neighbourhood planning powers are boosting plans for housebuilding by more than 10%, Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis has claimed. Neighbourhood plans allow people to decide the future development of their area, including where new homes and businesses should be built, what they should look like and what local infrastructure is needed. Putting planning power in the hands of local people involves the whole community, from plan drafting to referendum stages.

The Housing and Planning Bill puts more pressure on local authorities to ensure that neighbourhood plans are adopted as smoothly and swiftly as possible, saying that regulations will enable the secretary of state to set deadlines and timeframes for the process and reserve the right to intervene should councils fail to do what they are supposed to.

The Housing and Planning Bill also proposes to introduce 'permission in principle' on land allocated for development and to give the government significant new powers to intervene in the planning and plan-making processes. Development orders from the communities secretary would be used to grant unconditional PiP directly or to provide for local authorities to grant it, for development proposals meeting a prescribed description. Full planning permission would then be granted by councils through a 'technical details consent', which would be able to be made subject to conditions.

But there is controversy: The Telegraph reports on the Housing and Planning Bill’s permission in principle measure. It says that "tens of thousands of new homes in greenfield areas in England will be given automatic planning permission amid fears that communities will have inappropriate developments forced on them". According to the newspaper, ministers have "quietly given developers the right to be granted ‘permission in principle’ in areas that are earmarked for new housing schemes". The newspaper adds: "Rural campaigners said the new powers will restrict the rights of council planning officers to ensure that the design, density, size and location of homes is in keeping with rural areas."

In terms of neighbourhood planning powers, so far more than 100 areas have voted yes in neighbourhood planning referendums, with more than 8 million people living in areas involved in neighbourhood planning.

And latest figures show that plans for housebuilding are more than 10% higher in the first areas with a neighbourhood plan as opposed to only the council’s local plan.

Nationally planning permissions were granted on almost 250,000 new homes in the last year, with more than one million permissions granted for new homes since 2010 and the National House Building Council saying the number of new homes being registered with it so far this year is 9% higher than a year ago.

Speaking about the second reading of the Housing and Planning Bill, Brandon Lewis said: This government is continuing the huge shift of power from Whitehall to the town hall and to local people. More than 8 million people now live in areas that have had or will have their say on planning in their neighbourhood, and more areas are coming forward every day.

We are scrapping the broken old planning system that pitted neighbours and developers against each other, and cornered people into opposing any development in their back yard. The 100 neighbourhood planning referendums show how our approach of getting the whole community working together is paying off, and breaking through local opposition.
Earlier this year the government opened a neighbourhood planning support programme, including a fund allowing groups to apply for grants of up to £8,000 to help write their plans, pay for events to engage the local community, develop websites and pay for specialist planning expertise.

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