Power struggle in planning

There appears to be a power struggle going on in planning.  The system that is meant to take the aggro out of decisions about development is itself the subject of attack. Those who find the planning laws irksome in their bid to progress their business interests have been joined by those who follow the simplistic line that building more houses will be the cure to all the current problems.

The result has been a loosening of the regulations.
The struggle continues between deregulation and growth at all costs on the one hand and the need to strengthen the commitment to people on the other. In the revisions to National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which are being consulted on until 10 May (google NPPF consultation 2018), the commitment is for the planning system to be genuinely plan led.  Succinct and up to date plans should provide a vision for each area, a framework for addressing housing needs and other economic, social and environmental priorities and a platform for local people to shape their surroundings.
Further on there are paragraphs that appear to defeat this laudable objective. Contradictions include a proposal to include “entry-level” homes on exception sites.  This would enable the big developers to build market houses for first time buyers on small sites outside the limits of development that were originally intended as exception sites for local social/affordable houses, thereby undermining the effort people have put into making neighbourhood plans.  Helpfully, other parts of the plan try to make small and medium sites available to small builders and self-build.  However, in order to support the re-use of brownfield land where vacant buildings are being reused or re-developed any affordable housing contribution should be reduced by a proportionate amount, whatever that means.  Other paragraphs only give substantial weight to homes on suitable brownfield land within settlements instead of boldly declaring that these sites must be built first before more green field sites are released.
Another worrying area is where applications come in that are not on land that is in the development plan.  Instead of saying these are premature and should be refused, the NPPF makes it difficult to refuse them.  They have to be so substantial, or to have such a significant cumulative effect that it would undermine or prejudice  the outcome of the plan making process.  This seems like an open invitation to land promoters and a move that could seriously undermine public confidence in the planning system.
No wonder there are criticisms that deregulation has resulted in haphazard, sub-standard, target driven, unaffordable development and there are calls for controlling galloping land prices.  As Gareth Slater wrote, in a letter to this paper published on 5 April, a solution was found 75 years ago when an all party committee of  MPs recommended that additional value created by a development should be assessed and paid into a central fund to be used for compensation. Subsequently, the provision for an imposition of a development charge was included in the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act.  There is mention in today’s NPPF of the benefit of using a review to capture the increases in value of a large or multi-phased development so perhaps a start will be made.
Let’s hope the power struggle will be resolved and there will be less inconsistency and contradiction, that development goes to the deprived areas rather than the crowded ones, that Councils will be given more funding to build social housing and will not be subjected to a draconian delivery test  – this surely should be directed at those who have been granted permission to deliver i.e. the developers.
Let’s hope, above all, that people will have a greater say on what happens in their surroundings and the planning system will see fair play.
Two people searching for something against a cloudy blue sky