How planning system has become undemocratic and biased towards developers – Stephanie Peacock

STEPHANIE Peacock spoke in this week’s House of Commons debate on planning reform – this is an edited version.

Is the planning system rigged in favour of developers?
Is the planning system rigged in favour of developers?

THE planning system is already well rigged in developers’ favour. We put trust and faith in a democratic process that has been eroded in much of the country.

In my constituency, there has been a significant amount of anger, upset and deep concern caused by the planning system, particularly with regard to a site that is being developed for myHermes.

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Although there were a number of consultations before land allocation, understandably the vast majority of people were not even aware that a potential allocation was taking place.

Stephanie Peacock is Labour MP for Barnsley East.

The Minister for Housing, Christopher Pincher, said in response to my written question on this issue that “previous studies suggest that only a small proportion of the public tend to engage in local plan consultations”.

We all know that people tend only to become aware and engage when an application is made and when a site notice appears, but this causes real upset when people do then engage and seek to share their views at the application stage, only to be told that the decision about the site has already been made.

At best, it leaves people feeling ignored. At worst, it leads to a feeling of total disenfranchisement from local democracy. This is not the fault of our local councils; it is the process.

However, the councils and the planning committees take the blame. Planning works best when it is a partnership. We need the right types of homes in the right places.

Is the planning system rigged in favour of developers?

Of course we need investment and new jobs, but just leaving delivery to the market will not deliver partnership and will fundamentally fail to meet people’s needs.

With the brownfield remediation fund devastated by the Tories and a soft-touch approach to land banking and speculation, the inevitable consequences of this policy will be a further loss of valued green spaces without local voices being heard.

The reality is that the planning process is not a democratic one; it is a legal one. However, this situation is due to become far, far worse.

With these changes, the Government will be ripping out the only democratic element of the planning process. The proposals are nothing short of a developers’ charter.

As has been stated, since the Prime Minister became leader of the Conservative party, donations to the Tories from developers have increased by 400 per cent.

With these proposals, the Prime Minister is paying them back by selling out our communities. Some of those developers have even seen their individual planning applications personally approved by the Secretary of State (Robert Jenrick) against his own Department’s advice.

There is a reason why there is so much opposition to the proposals. Their introduction would be the greatest shift in power to big developers in the history of this country. We need a fundamentally new approach, not more market control. We need democratic control.

The Government’s proposals will not deliver that. The developers and donors will be delighted, but it is our communities who will pay the price.

Stephanie Peacock is Labour MP
 for Barnsley East.

HOUSING Secretary Robert Jenrick said in response:

“We are going to ensure that there is more engagement and more local democracy, not less.

“We are going to ensure that the plan-making process is faster and better. We are going to ensure that plans are produced in 13 months, not seven years, and that millions more of our fellow citizens are involved in the plan-making process than they are today.

“Only one per cent of the public even engage in the current system. We are going to ensure that many, many more people do so. We are going to ensure that neighbourhood plans have more teeth and that more of them happen across the country, not just in the most engaged and well-heeled places.

“We will ensure that they become ubiquitous and a key part of the planning system. And we are going to end speculative development, which does more than anything to lead to the corrosion of public trust in the planning system.”

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