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CPRE Leicestershire sets out views on the planning changes

22nd October 2020

Proposed changes to the planning system are a major concern, says CPRE Leicestershire.

For CPRE Leicestershire, the Government’s proposed changes raise major concerns about how the planning system will operate in future and how it will enable local communities to influence planning decisions, deliver more affordable housing, protect countryside and green spaces and address the climate and nature emergencies.

These concerns are set out in ‘Proposed Government Changes to the Planning System: A Guide from CPRE Leicestershire’, which is attached to this article. Our main concerns are:

1. Loss of local democracy

The Government’s proposals will result in a serious loss of local democracy. Government envisage an enhanced role for local plans and for greater local engagement and public participation in the plan-making process. However, on the contrary, what is proposed, namely a six-week consultation late in the process, will be a huge reduction in opportunities for public engagement.

Other changes will reduce the opportunities to comment on specific developments as they pass through the planning system. They will strip local people of their voice in planning applications and remove their ability to object to specific developments at a time when their effect on them is most apparent.

2. Climate change, environment, biodiversity and energy

Consideration of these issues in Planning for the Future is minimal and aspirational rather than specific. The challenge of climate change and how planning could address it is largely ignored.

3. Leicestershire and a ‘mutant’ housing algorithm

CPRE is strongly opposed to the way the Government changed the criteria and method of calculating the housing requirements for each local area. In line with much of England, the application of this new algorithm to Leicester and Leicestershire has resulted in dramatic shifts between urban and rural areas. This will lead to a decline of 35% in the City’s requirement but an increase of 104% in surrounding districts in the County.

The pressure for development in the countryside will increase as Leicestershire councils have to find yet more sites for several hundreds of extra new homes beyond those already planned for. Making the centrally determined housing targets mandatory for Councils to achieve will contribute further to the pressure.

4. Vulnerability of Leicestershire countryside

Another concern is how the proposal to allocate all land to Growth, Renewal or Protected ‘Areas’ would constitute and operate as a zoning system in the Leicestershire context.

Under this system, land allocated for substantial development will be included in the Growth Area. However, various national and local designations constrain which sites can be included in Growth Areas. Thus undesignated open countryside and green spaces can be in the frame as sites for development in the Local Plan process and for inclusion in a ‘Growth Area’.

This poses a particular worry for CPRE Leicestershire. Without the protections afforded by major national protective designations, Green Belt, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOBs) or National Park, large tracts of (attractive) undesignated open countryside in Leicestershire are vulnerable to development and could be placed in a ‘Growth Area’.

Even if this countryside is included in the ‘Protected Area’, it is unclear precisely how this protects the countryside outside of areas with existing national or local designations.

5. Affordable housing

In our view, there are a number of proposals that will adversely impact the provision of genuinely affordable housing. Our fear is that a combination of proposals will result in a negligible supply of rural homes for social rent or otherwise available to people who cannot afford to buy under the First Home scheme.

6. Improving design standards

CPRE supports the Government’s aspirations to improve design standards but is extremely sceptical about the extent to which its proposals will achieve the desired improvement. Thinking around this topic needs to be developed much further, especially about how design issues relate to climate change and contribute to achieving carbon neutral development.

We fear that proposed changes in rules, procedures and processes and increased central controls will result in a more complicated and confusing system in which the local voice is heard much less often and local democracy is undermined.

Proposed government changes to the planning system

Proposed government changes to the planning system – summary

A view of sheep and the Leicestershire countryside
A view of sheep and the Leicestershire countryside Tony Stott