Guildford Labour has little confidence that this government announcement will create any changes for the better, because this White Paper really does appear to be a developers’ charter. Detail is missing, of course, but it is unclear how this new planning regime fits with the Local Plan which already designates areas for growth and housing.
In general, construction is usually delayed by the finances of construction companies, not over-complex planning processes or local councils being tardy, and local people can, and do, submit comments and objections to any planning application online.
The government is also concerned with the aesthetics of buildings, a welcome idea perhaps, but beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder while quality is something that can and should be measured and regulated. Most worrying is the proposal to ditch the mechanisms by which most affordable homes are built (CIL & Section 106 funding).
Building affordable housing, even at its present low levels, is a fight with developers and this new “reform” threatens future affordable houses and we have managed to have only a relative few built. Planning committees need to be very well trained to understand the important implications of probity, objectivity and use of both the Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework and so ensure local views and opinions are genuinely balanced and understood.
Guildford Labour fear these proposals will signal an end to localism and lead instead to decisions made by a developer-led national government riding roughshod over local sentiments. We need look no further than the soon-to-be-built Guildford Station development, by Solum, to see how well that works.
Finally, should political parties accept donations from developers? Clearly not, but apparently this government is open to all bidders (perhaps with a peerage for donors at the end of it).