I am campaigning to ensure our planning policy protects our communities and green belt, and that rules are strengthened to ensure swifter action can be taken against rogue developers seeking to subvert the planning system for personal gain. This page sets out my work to deliver on this.
The planning process, while complex, shapes the communities we live in. It is therefore essential that national planning policy - the framework which governs planning and development - is robust and strikes the right balance between enabling development we need, and protecting the right of residents, the character of our towns and villages, and our natural environment.
The Government has committed to reform the planning system and you may be aware that, in preparation for the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, the Government issued two consultations on planning reform, one regarding changes to the current planning system, and a second putting forward proposals for wider reforms. I submitted my response to both of these consultations. Copies of these are available on the following links:
These responses called on the Government to ensure protection for existing communities is built in to our planning policy, especially through protection of our green belt and flood plain, but also through retention of input into design and development. They also reflected concerns over the proposed increase in threshold for the development of affordable housing. I have also raised issues regarding permitted development and change of use rules with Ministerial colleagues in response to concerns raised.
Stage 1 - Planning (Enforcement) Bill
Last year I also had the opportunity to present my own legislation to parliament, and introduced the Planning (Enforcement) Bill, which sought to address concerns over serious and repeated planning breaches, and the impact these can have on our communities and natural environment. The description of the Bill stated:
A Bill to create offences relating to repeat breaches of planning controls; to make provision about penalties for planning offences; to establish a national register of persons who have committed planning offences or breached planning controls and make associated provision about planning applications; and for connected purposes.
While most people adhere to the rules, the minority who persistently commit planning breaches can cause misery to neighbours and communities, and can cause irreparable damage to our Green Belt. Since elected in 2019 I have been made aware of numerous cases where repeated planning breaches have caused significant disruption, anxiety and anger amongst neighbouring residents. The current planning enforcement system is beset by long delays, with complicated and repeat offences often taking many years to resolve. Local authority planning teams are also forced to spend too much time dealing with a handful of cases rather than engaging with residents across the local area.
It simply should not be possible for individuals or companies to benefit or profit from intentionally flouting planning rules. My Planning (Enforcement) Bill sought to address this by strengthening powers to deal with repeated planning breaches. The Bill aimed to increase the penalties for those who repeatedly and intentionally flout the law, and creating a national register to enable local authorities to identify repeat offenders, in order to end the cycle of endless applications and planning breaches on problem sites, and help protect our residents and our natural environment.
Further information regarding the Bill is available at www.stoproguedevelopment.com
The Second Reading debate of the Bill took place on 19th November and showed the strength of feeling, the impact that serious breaches have on our communities and Green Belt, and the need for the measures in the Bill. As one colleague today highlighted, there is a clear sense of urgency to ensure this is addressed.
The full debate is available here (start time 11.03.10). You can also watch my speech proposing the legislation above.
I am delighted that the Government have acknowledged the importance of addressing these issues, and expressed support for bringing in new powers to strengthen the planning enforcement process and for Local Planning Authorities. In his response, the Minister acknowledged that the issues highlighted are problems we must solve, and noted the level of interest and support the issues had. Following several discussions with Ministers this Bill was withdrawn to enable further work on the provisions, and my aim is to have its aims subsumed into the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
Stage 2 - Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill
Following on from my Private Member's Bill last year, I was delighted that the Government have accepted one of my proposals as part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. This will now create a national planning database so local authorities can share information on planning issues more easily. The Levelling Up Bill is now making its passage through Parliament, and having received its Second Reading will now receive close scrutiny during its Committee Stage.
To build upon the progress made so far, I have tabled amendments to the Bill which would add the additional provisions from my PMB. If accepted these would increase the penalties for those who repeatedly and intentionally flout the law and allow local authorities take previous planning breaches into account when determining new applications. Listed as New Clauses (NC) 9, 10 and 11, there are available here.
I will be seeking support from colleagues across Parliament for these measures, and will be campaigning throughout the passage of the Bill to have these provisions entered into the Bill.
Stage 3 - Implementation
While perhaps a little presumptive, I will also be working on how to ensure these provisions can be quickly and easily implemented once this legislation is passed...