An initial response to the government's Planning White Paper

Wednesday 16 September 2020

The Government has published Planning for the future, a white paper proposing radical changes to the planning system.

The National CLT Network will be publishing its response to the consultation in due course. We’re taking our time to understand the proposals, to review what other experts are saying, and to analyse how they might affect Community Land Trusts.

We are also focusing on our campaign to renew the Community Housing Fund, and submitting a response to the consultation on damaging changes to the current planning system, as more urgent priorities.

The white paper runs to 84 pages, but it is light on detail and so it is unclear how many of the key ideas might be implemented. The new system could bring opportunities, but it could also be damaging to CLTs. We are therefore asking ourselves whether the proposals could meet the following five tests:

  • Will it increase the supply of land for CLTs? Many CLTs struggle to buy land, whether in villages strangled by big developers’ land banks or in towns and cities where land values are too high for affordable housing developments.

  • Will it produce more affordable housing in general, and more genuinely affordable housing where it’s most needed? The land market (and the housing grants) often make it difficult for CLTs to build homes that are rented or sold at prices that people on low or average incomes can afford, and for decades we have built too few affordable homes across England.

  • Will it reduce the risks and costs associated with the planning process? The planning system isn’t a major barrier for CLTs, but it can be costly, and the risks can make loans for ‘site and plan’ work expensive.

  • Will it increase the opportunity for genuine community participation in the planning and development process? CLTs have shown how communities can be meaningfully engaged in consultation, and even better how they can be involved in decision making. The planning system should aim for citizen power rather than tokenism or non-participation.

  • Will it work in every corner of England? CLTs specialise in meeting the specific needs of their local communities, but we too often find they are frustrated by national policy that tries to apply a one-size-fits-all formula. The planning system should enable a locally appropriate response to the needs of - for example - rural communities with poor broadband, expensive areas where ‘affordable rent’ is not affordable, and left behind communities that need investment in existing housing stock as much as new development.

We are aiming to complete and publish our response to the white paper by mid-October. We encourage our members to make their own responses and hope you will find ours a useful reference point.

This autumn our campaigns are about land and finance - a planning system that provides the land, and a Community Housing Fund to provide the finance.

 

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