Parliamentary Sketch : Too many presumptions

Planning is thinking carefully about the consequences of doing something before you go ahead and actually do it.

This week the Government signalled that you can do something unless the local authority had both anticipated you might do it and had said that you can’t.

The Government’s National Planning Policy Framework introduces what’s known as a “presumption in favour” of development, unless there’s a local plan which says otherwise.

The good news is that for those who find the planning system an impenetrable and complex encyclopaedia of jargon and overlapping regulations and rules the Government has reduced that rule book from over a thousand pages to just 50!

The less good news is that unless the Council has recently slapped a preservation notice on your favourite piece of unspoilt tranquillity it could soon become a highly prized piece of real estate for Acme Development Corp to turn into another luxury home or exclusive estate.

The planning system was introduced after the Second World War to control the growing capacity of developers to develop anywhere. Had there been no planning law, who knows; there would probably have been bungaloid development on every inch of crumbling cliff line and hill top around the coast of West Cornwall and Scilly.

On the other hand it may have stopped some creative developments which could have regenerated some local economies. Would today’s planners have allowed the building of Porthleven, St Ives or Mousehole harbours? Possibly not. Would the railway have been built? Questionable.

But there’s a problem for our area when the lid is lifted to create an “anything goes” approach. Because, by and large, we’re not NIMBYs (not in my back yard – anti-development) in Cornwall. We’ve grown faster than almost anywhere else in the country (3rd fastest after Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire). Our housing stock has more than doubled in the last 40 years, and yet the housing problems of locals have got a lot worse. So simply building more houses is not the answer.

Affordable housing needs low land values. A “presumption in favour” adds a hope value to every site making affordable homes unaffordable.

27th March 2012

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