Published Wednesday, 25th November 2020
Reigate & Banstead has highlighted a raft of concerns with the latest planning reform proposals in its robust formal response to the Government’s recent Planning for the future public consultation.
The council is particularly concerned about the negative impact it could have in the borough on:
- the number of affordable homes
- essential infrastructure, such as roads, transport and schools
- tackling climate change and loss of biodiversity
- and the ability for local knowledge and input to planning schemes and applications.
A key proposal in this second recent consultation on planning reform, Planning for the future, is to replace the existing community infrastructure levy system. This system requires developers to help fund infrastructure and affordable homes as part of their housing development schemes.
The proposed new levy is based on a national fixed percentage of the value of a scheme and does not allow for flexibility to adequately reflect the local situation. Introducing a national approach could potentially reduce funding available for essential infrastructure in high market demand areas like Reigate & Banstead. It could also discourage developers from building in town centres and regeneration areas, where development costs will be higher. This makes it more difficult for the council to protect the borough’s green spaces and enable redevelopment of brownfield sites that have already been built on in some way.
The new levy system would also allow developers to build reduced numbers of affordable homes on the development site or choose to build them somewhere else off-site instead. A change that would further limit the ability for input and local knowledge about where these homes are needed most. Given the borough’s high demand for rented affordable homes, of different types and sizes, this is potentially another cut to the number of homes that local people can afford to live in.
Loss of affordable homes
These proposals are on top of those outlined in the first planning reform consultation Changes to the current planning system, that the council responded to on 30 September, where the borough could lose 60% of its total affordable housing on smaller development sites. The equivalent of 495 affordable homes lost since 2012, the start of our local plan period.
Delivering positive change and more affordable homes is a key 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 council’s response also raised concerns about the lack of detail on how biodiversity will be enhanced in new development or planning’s role in assisting a move to net zero carbon by 2050, another key part of our five year plan.
Potential negative impacts
Cllr Richard Biggs, Executive Member for Planning Policy, explains: “Planning is not about building housing wherever possible. There are many other important factors to consider and our key planning priorities are to protect our environment, increase the affordability of new homes and support the local economy.
“Good planning is best achieved at a local level, responding to local circumstances and involving local communities and businesses. The borough needs more affordable homes, not less, and we must have the ability to make sure critical infrastructure is provided that supports all types of development.
“Although we welcome the opportunity to feedback on the Government’s latest consultation, we are still concerned about the potential negative impact these reforms could have.”
Other proposals include a national design code and expansion of the current Permission in Principle (PiP) for areas designated for Growth or Renewal. Both allow a statutory presumption that development can take place, limiting the ability for the council and residents to have their say on the decisions and developments that affect people’s lives and livelihoods. A national design code, favouring a standardised approach across the country, could also mean poor quality, uniform schemes that lead to a loss of unique character and local identity.
These changes, coupled with proposals to reduce council planning involvement in assessing local economic and infrastructure needs, could have a big impact on balancing housing with other land uses. Reigate & Banstead has historically had high demands for employment space due to its proximity to Gatwick Airport and strategic location at the heart of the Gatwick Diamond and Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership.
Cllr Biggs adds: "We will continue to respond constructively and robustly to all consultations that affect our borough. Councils and communities know their areas best, and we cannot lose the ability to apply local knowledge to decision-making. A planning system should be flexible, allowing for creativity and innovation as well as protect our unique heritage and natural environment. We will do all we can to make sure our borough remains a great place to live, work, visit and do business in.”
The Government is now analysing the feedback from both and will publish the outcomes at a later date.