The Service Manager for Strategic City Planning introduced the item to Members by stating that the Government was consulting on two key documents published on 6th August 2020:
· Planning for the Future White Paper deadline for comment by 29th October
· Changes to the current planning system for comment by 1st October 2020
In summary the headline proposals of the White Paper were said to address:
- the preparation of Local Plans – timing, content and process
- Planning applications and decisions
- Development contributions and delivery
The headline proposals of the changes to the current planning system were said to address:
- The ‘standard method’ for calculation of the housing need number for Bristol
- The delivery and form of affordable homes
- The use of the ‘Permission in Principle’
The changes include a revised ‘standard method’ to calculate housing numbers required in each area. In Bristol this could mean that the housing ‘need’ figures could increase from the former Joint Spatial Plan figure which was 11,000 new homes to the current standard method now is 23,000 to new figures of 24,900 built in the next 10 years.
The following points were discussed:
A Member highlighted that there didn’t appear to be anything included about ‘space standards’ or ‘land banking’ and said this appeared to be a potential ‘power grab’ that would completely centralise the UK’s planning system.
The term ‘fast-track for beauty’ was thought to be subjective and could lead to a loss of democratic control away from local authorities and communities.
Members queried the point that stated ‘design codes will be more binding on planning decisions’ and how this could in reality be agreed. It was likened to processes in America and questioned whether the UK would really want such a process here. It was suggested that the design codes could also undermine professional architects.
The Chair asked the other Members to consider if they wished to write a joint response to either of the consultations. A discussion then ensued about this.
Members generally agreed that as the papers currently stand they would be very challenging. One Member said they had previously written an article in the local media about this very subject because of the number of concerns they had.
Members generally agreed they could write a cross-party response to the consultation.
The Director of Development of Place said that officers shared some of the same concerns as Members. However, she asked them to consider whether there was anything that they thought was good or useful in the two documents. For example, it was highlighted that the paper did appear to recognise that the process of producing Local Plans was in reality far too long. This recognition that some processes don’t work well was potentially very helpful and it could be something that was feedback by Members if they submitted a statement.
Another Member said that they agreed with the sentiments expressed by others Members but highlighted there was a Local Plan Working Group (LPWG) that would also looking at these same papers and they would very likely be making a statement as well. They also commented that in their view that previous changes to the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) had not been an improvement because most funding is now held centrally and that the previous Section 106 policy had worked better for the communities directly affected by property developments. In their view there were challenges with the papers but he didn’t think that very much would survive the parliamentary process anyway.
The Cabinet Member for Spatial Planning and City Design commented that although the officer presentation had been very detailed she recommended the Commission Members read the whole of the White Paper. She said it was clearly not the answer to everything but supposed to stimulate debate. For example she though it jumped to outcomes with no details of processes and they currently didn’t say anything about industry or employment or other challenges across the city, it was very housing focussed. It was suggested that Members consider which elements of the papers, if any, they could work with in principle.
It was suggested that the Commission could potentially feed into the statement that LPWG will be making.
ACTION: Members to agree if or how they would like to respond to the consultations.