Councillors 'flexing muscles' over housing schemes

Councillors seem increasingly willing to overturn officer recommendations and reject housing schemes, the head of planning at the UK's second largest housebuilder by volume said yesterday.

New homes: 'more refusals against officer recommendation than we have had in the past'
New homes: 'more refusals against officer recommendation than we have had in the past'

Taylor Wimpey's Keith George told Planning that in the last three months the company had seen eight applications that had been supported by officers refused permission. "Members flexing their muscles has become more apparent," he said, attributing their new assertiveness to ministerial influence.

In June, housing minister Grant Shapps told elected members "not to let council officers be the backseat drivers of local government".

George said he had mentioned the issue to decentralisation minister Greg Clark's team, who responded by saying that the planning system was in a transitional period and should not be judged on such a short timeframe.

George said he accepted that the figures could be a seasonal abnormality, and that people "were feeling their way" into a new system. But it was "a statement of fact" that the company was seeing "more refusals against officer recommendation than we have had in the past," he said.

George said Taylor Wimpey’s consented land bank was still "adequate for its current needs", but that in the medium to long term land that had been given planning permission needed to be replaced. If the decision-making trend was to continue, he said, it would become a "structural problem and not just a local annoyance".

He described current decision-making as "volatile", when "a smooth, orderly predictable process" was needed to maintain current housebuilding volumes and provide for potential future increases in housing delivery.

George spoke to Planning on the sidelines of the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants Rural Planning Division conference, which took place yesterday at Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire.


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