There is cross-party concern in Coventry that major planning changes could lead to thousands more homes and developer’s sidestepping the democratic process.
The government says its Changes to the Current Planning System proposals will boost housing supply quicker with a new national target of 337,000 new homes per year.
In a response to a government consultation this month, the authority warned this “will place an unsustainable demand in the city” and “require significant further Green Belt release”.
There is also concern about the level of affordable housing that will be built due to changes requiring no affordable housing in developments of less than 40 or 50 homes, although the government has said this will be replaced by a new ‘First Homes’ policy with a minimum of 25% affordable housing units for first-time buyers secured through developer contributions.
A second reform as part of the Planning for the Future White Paper is also being consulted on until October 29, but that has sparked further concern.
The biggest shake-up of the system since 1947 is to replace the current “outdated” system, simplify local plans and build more homes quicker, housing secretary Robert Jenrick has said.
Crucially, Local Plans would be re-drawn with land divided into three categories – growth, renewal and Green Belt – with ‘growth’ land open to automatic outline approval, stripping the decision on developments away from councillors and residents.
But Coventry cabinet member for communities and housing Cllr David Welsh has branded the changes as a “developer’s charter”.
Speaking at cabinet on October 13, he said: “As a council we are strongly opposed to an awful lot of the recommendations within the consultations.
“The zoning system will essentially give developers a green light on certain bits of land and it cuts out the local authority in terms of input on what a development has in it.
“It will also mean residents will have very little way of opposing applications going forward.
“We have been accused with our local plan of it being a developer’s charter. It is actually the opposite it defends green belt. This is a developer’s wishlist and the government have given it to them.”
You can get your Coventry and Warwickshire news straight to your email inbox – and it’s FREE!
All you need to do is sign up here.
The emails come out twice a day, at lunchtime and in the evening, with the latest news, what’s on and sport from across Coventry and Warwickshire.
Opposition leader Cllr Gary Ridley has also written to the government’s housing minister Christopher Pincher MP to express concern.
In his letter he highlighted concerns over ‘land banking’ – where homes on land with planning permission are not built; high new housing targets; fears automatic planning permission would “disenfranchise many communities”; and called for the need for a mandatory Housing Needs Assessment.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We have got a serious issue in this country of developers not building. We need to get houses built where people can access them at the right location and the right price.
“The housing targets are not acceptable either really. The government needs to think about that as some of the figures are ludicrous. The current figures are ludicrous but to say Coventry should build another 1,400 houses is ridiculous.”
To sign up for our newsletter, delivered free to your inbox, click here.