Report calls for planning panels to exclude members directly affected by developments

Planning decisions should be taken by panels which exclude elected members whose areas include development proposals, a report by a government-backed think-tank has suggested.

High density: report calls for higher levels to be allowed in central London
High density: report calls for higher levels to be allowed in central London

The report, written by the former policy chairman of the City of London Corporation, Sir Mark Boleat, for The Housing & Finance Institute, which he chairs, calls for a radical planning shake-up to solve London’s housing crisis.

A key recommendation is to "change radically the planning system such that the bias against development is significantly reduced".

The report says that elected members "are often put in a near-impossible position" in that they "have been elected and need to be re-elected and therefore are responsive to their electorates, who invariably are opposed to developments".

It says that it "would be more sensible for the decision to be taken by a panel excluding the local members on the grounds that they are conflicted".

"Those members would be able to have their say to the panel, properly representing the views of their constituents", the report says, "but it would be for the panel to decide".

The document says that "many councillors would welcome such an approach, as all too often they feel they need to be seen to be supporting the prevailing vocal view even if they know that a development is desirable".

Other recommendations include:

  • There should be a review of policy on green belt land "such that land that does not meet the popular view of what the green belt is (that is green space accessible by the public) and that is not needed to prevent urban sprawl can be considered for housing use".
  • Higher densities should be allowed, particularly in central London. The report says that "this does not mean low quality high rise flats – such as were built in the 1960s. It can mean for example more terraced housing, five or six stories in height, similar to much of the housing in Paris".
  • The section 106 viability assessment process should be simplified. "The current system leads to expensive and time consuming negotiations that can leave everyone dissatisfied", the report says.
  • Planning conditions should be "reduced significantly, costed and deemed to be discharged within seven days of certification by the developer, unless the local authority has clear evidence that the conditions have not been complied with".

The Housing & Finance Institute was established by the government in March 2015, following a recommendation in the Elphicke-House Housing Report in January 2015.

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