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Who is running Planning?

Anne Henshaw
By Anne Henshaw
12th July 2022

Who is running Planning?  Civil servants, developers or politicians?

Greg Clark has taken over from Michael Gove.  He ran the Communities department once before for a short time and was viewed favourably by CPRE.

Despite being one of the first ministers to stand down Stuart Andrews had previously made a positive statement.

“Following an exchange at a debate in the House of Commons between Barry Sheeman MP and Stuart Andrews, the Housing Minister on brownfield v greenfield development,  it was stated by Stuart Andrews that  The fact is that we have run a national register and it has identified more than 28,000 hectares of developable land, which is enough for 1 million homes. I make no apology for wanting regeneration, and I make no apology for wanting brownfield before green belt.”

Will Greg Clark and his new team pick up the same message as Stuart Andrews and  Michael Gove were giving out?

At an interview with the renowned political journalist Liam Halligan, this is what Michael Gove stated:The Government is working on plans to end a “cartel” operated by major house builders that is keeping house prices high and limiting available social housing, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has revealed. Mr Gove said some house-builders were deliberately building new homes slowly in order to maintain prices and that in essence, what we have is a situation where since the economic crash of 2008, we’ve seen more and more of the homes that have been delivered, being delivered by a small group of big volume house builders. One of the problems with that is that we don’t have a market that is truly competitive. There are barriers to entry and one of them is the planning system, which means that smaller builders, artisan builders have been locked out of the system.

There’s been manipulation of the land market in order to keep prices at a particular level. to take a wider look at the way in which the Land and Housing market works in order to make sure that is working in the interests of the citizen, not those people who are currently profiting handsomely.”

CPRE has been campaigning about this issue for years, and in Wiltshire we have seen the effect of that market manipulation increase year on year.  Many are the sites around the County where building work should have started years ago, or have barely started and then be slowed or halted.  It has become particularly acute over the past three years with house builders using the modest shortfall in Wiltshire’s housing land supply as an argument to challenge the Council and build up a portfolio of greenfield sites outside of the boundaries of settlements  contrary to the Local Plan policies and the  local Neighbourhood Plans.  They achieve this by going to Appeal, putting huge extra pressure on the Council’s overstretched planning departments and achieving the worst kind of unplanned development.  One which is not subject to proper Masterplanning and consequently  “Planning By Appeal” delivers uncoordinated blocks of housing with incomplete infrastructure and no joined up thinking.

CPRE understand that despite the upheavals at Westminster one of the major areas of focus will be the passage through the parliamentary stages of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.  It seems that ministers will try their hardest to have the Bill completed and part of legislation by the end of the year.  This is important for the timetable of the revision of the Wiltshire Plan due to go to the next round of consultations at the end of 2022.  We will be undertaking some intense campaigning over the next months in order to influence the Bill at the next crucial stages.

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