Published Thursday, 15th October 2020

Reigate & Banstead has highlighted several concerns with the Government’s proposed Changes to the current planning system via a robust formal response, as part of the recent public consultation.

The council is particularly concerned about the negative impact it could have on the number of affordable homes in the borough.

A key proposal in the consultation on planning system reform, is to increase the minimum size of sites that require developers to provide affordable housing from the current 10 homes to 40 or 50 homes.

Given the large number of developments in the borough of between 11-40 homes, increasing the affordable threshold to 40 would mean losing 60% of the borough’s total affordable housing. The equivalent of 495 affordable homes lost since 2012, the start of our local plan period.

Delivering positive change and more affordable homes is part of our five year Reigate and Banstead 2025 plan. Reducing the potential for affordable housing affects the Council’s ability to enable people and businesses to flourish in a great environment.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, also raised concerns that central Government’s proposals could significantly reduce the amount of affordable housing across the country. Its independent analysis showed that nearly 5,000 affordable homes in the South East may not have been built in the past five years if certain proposals in the planning reform were introduced.

Cllr Richard Biggs, Executive Member for Planning Policy, explains: “We welcome the opportunity to feedback on the Government’s consultation and help shape a national planning system, which must also work at the widely varying local level. We want to plan for the mix of housing that communities need, especially affordable homes, and ensure that everyone can have their say on the decisions and developments that affect people’s lives. The borough needs more affordable homes, not less.”

Another proposal requires a minimum of 25% of all affordable homes to be First Homes, irrespective of differing local factors that may affect what is most needed in that area. Although homes would be at a discounted price for first-time buyers, the Council is also concerned that First Homes is not a genuinely affordable housing option in high value areas such as Reigate & Banstead.

Cllr Biggs adds:” Imposing a national 25% mandate that affordable housing must be as First Homes removes valuable local insight and control. We have up to date evidence of our high need for affordable rented and other types of supported housing. There are many requirements for different people and the size of homes they need. We cannot lose the ability to make the most of our local knowledge and decision-making by councils and communities, who know their areas best.

“We aim to drive economic prosperity, deliver more affordable homes and work with partners to create strong, safe and welcoming communities. We will continue to respond constructively and robustly to all consultations that affect our local area.”

The  Changes to the current planning system consultation was open from 6 August to 1 October 2020. The Government is now analysing the feedback and will publish the outcome at a later date.

The Government is also running a second planning consultation Planning for the future that closes on 29 October 2020. The Council is preparing its formal response and will submit feedback by the deadline.