Builders ‘find ways around rules on planning’

HOUSE BUILDERS are already finding ways around the Government’s flagship planning changes with villages and green belt land under threat, Ministers are today warned.

Meg Munn , Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley Picture Chris Lawton 06 May 2010

A detailed look at the Government’s controversial planning framework has found builders are taking advantages of loopholes in the framework to launch unwanted developments.

The Communities Select Committee said the Government needs to rethink the changes, calling on Ministers to toughen up the rules to ensure the environment is given the same consideration as the economy when considering applications.

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Committee chairman and Sheffield MP Clive Betts said there was real concern that communities are losing out as planning permission is granted to substantial housing development on the edge of towns and villages as a result of speculative applications. He said: “Councils must do more to protect their communities against the threat of undesirable development by moving quickly to get an adopted local plan in place.

“The NPPF is designed to work side by side with local plans. At the moment, 41 per cent of local authorities do not have an adopted local plan which is simply not good enough.

“To put an end to councils dragging their feet on this issue, we call for the Government to make it a statutory requirement for councils to get local plans adopted within three years of the legislation being enacted.”

Last night the National Trust back the committee, saying the report was the latest sign that the National Planning Policy Framework was allowing developers to ignore the wishes of local neighbourhoods.

Rick Hebditch, the charity’s assistant director of external affairs, said: “The Government’s planning rules need revising.”

Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Our locally-led planning reforms are working, as 240,000 badly needed new homes received planning permission in the last 12 months. But the simple way for councils to send speculative developers packing is to have an up-to-date local plan.”