Planning – Whitehall ‘Taking Back Control’?.

20 April 2021

MHCLG do they have integrated objecives?

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) at present seems to be pursuing three badly integrated objectives for housing which appear to be, build 300,000 houses a year, build anywhere and 'build better and beautiful’.

Permited Developments

Aligned to the build 300,000; there has recently been a lively local debate about reviewing the Local Plan to consider housing numbers that can be delivered.  The revisions to Permitted Development Rights (PDR’s), are an insidious change that can destroy the coherence of Local Plans by impeding planning authorities attempts to regulate land use, overwhelm local infrastructure and change neighbourhoods. This is ‘build anywhere’ at its worst.

PDR’s were introduced to cover minor changes to properties e.g. Fences, minor extensions. MHCLG has dramatically loosened regulations related to PDR’s, which associated with the revision of Use Class for properties has made development much easier.  Changes include the ability to increase the height of a dwelling house or block by up to two stories, change of use to dwellings etc.

There is concern in many quarters about PDR's see a recent article in the Huffington Post

Impacting Guildford

Locally the first proposals to use these rights have included:

  • Squeezing circa 50 flats between two main roads and the main rail line to London
  • Converting offices to flats with minimal external space for residents
  • Turning a 1950’s two store dwelling into a four-story House of Multiple Occupancy.

Local Planning Authorities have little control over these developments. Developers have only to submit minimal information from which the proposals can be judged.  This information is focuses on matters which remain in the councils remit to assess, concerning traffic, external appearance, impact on local amenity, and access to natural light.

Providing proper support for these PDR developments related to infrastructure (Electric, Water, Waste) and Social (Schools, Medical etc) depends on ad hoc efforts by the agencies concerned.

Population will increase

As a Society we accept that the population will increase in the Borough, but this increase must be enabled by a high-quality built environment, thus we support the ‘build better and beautiful’ aspirations presented in the Planning for the Future White Paper, and adequate infrastructure provision. 

The use of PDRs can be managed, to an extent, by Local Planning Authorities applying Article 4 Directions for a particular area, or the use of very specific planning conditions.  Like many other authorities Guildford is currently ill prepared to address PDR issues. Note this applies yet more stress on, already pressured, Local Planning Authorities to create the proper directions and policies.

Despite MHCLG promoting the concepts in the draft White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’; in reality, they seem content to enable the production of the slums of the 21st century.

Is this is Whitehall ‘Taking Back Control’ in the most insidious manner?

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