11 January 2017
Planning system ‘over-weighted towards developers’
Almost three-quarters of elected councillors believe the planning system works in favour of developers at the expense of the local community, a report shows.
A survey by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) for the National Trust shows 72% of local ward councillors say residents have the least power when it comes to planning decisions, and Government and developers the most.
Of the 1,278 elected officials polled, 51% believe development sites are being approved despite falling short of the local plan drawn up by the council for the area.
Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGiU, said: "The planning system is one of the fundamental pillars of local democracy, allowing communities to help shape the physical structure of the places they live.
"Our survey with the National Trust shows that many councillors feel that this democratic tool is at risk of being undermined."
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) - which was introduced in 2012 - outlines the purpose of planning as helping to achieve sustainable development.
The report says: "Sustainable development is about positive growth - making economic, environmental and social progress for this and future generations."
However, less than a fifth (18%) believed the quality of design of new housing had improved in their area following the implementation of the NPPF.
The report also says green belt land that has been depleted of diversity should be "refilled by nature" - although 58% councillors with green belts in their area believe their council would allocate the land for housing in the next five years.
Ingrid Samuel, historic environment director at the National Trust, said: "It is almost five years after the Government's planning framework was adopted, so it's worrying that councillors feel it hasn't delivered the localism that was promised.
"If ministers are serious about local plans being at the heart of the planning system, then they should invest in council planning teams and use the Housing White Paper to give them the tools to deliver good quality housing in the right places."
The survey comes ahead of the Government's publication of its housing White Paper.