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Automatic Planning Permissions for greenfield sites

Tens of thousands of new homes in English greenfield areas will receive automatic planning permission.

Ministers have provided developers the right to receive “planning in principle” in places that have already been targeted for new housing developments.

Campaigners in these rural districts are concerned that the new powers will impede the rights of council planning officers to ensure that the resulting homes are in keeping with the character of local areas.

Shaun Spiers, who heads the Campaign to Protect Rural England, admitted that the country needs more homes, but pointed out that the way to accomplish this is through developments that obtain public approval. Forcing development without local input and oversight is more likely to create discord.

Mr Spiers said that unplanned, low-quality development may be profitable to big builders, but it will not do much to solve England’s housing crisis.

This “planning in principle” right has been quietly expanded from brownfield locations to sites that local plans have slated for development.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that these new changes would apply to brownfield locations, such as industrial zones and former car parks.

However, government documents indicate that the new rights will apply to housing identified in local and neighbourhood plans, which include greenfield locations.

The premise is that “planning in principle” will provide developers with advance certainty about the location, purpose, and size of the new development.

Local councils will be able to review certain, as of yet unspecified details on housing developments, but will not be allowed to prevent schemes they do not approve of.

Whitehall predictions say that the new plans could result in the approval to build homes on 7,000 sites every year.

Rural campaigners argued against the reforms, saying that the Government should have tried to see if they were suitable for a green location and blaming developers for not building enough housing.

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Mr Spiers said that the Government appears to believe that the planning system is obstructing housebuilding, when it is not. He pointed out that planning permissions have grown in number, and consequently developers have massive land banks, but fewer homes are being constructed.

Shadow Housing Minister John Healey said that the Government is failing to accomplish its housebuilding goals, and the broad powers in this new bill should arouse alarm that ministers are preparing to veto local communities and give developers free rein.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said that the planning reforms have stopped the top-down system that pitted locals against developers, and put power in the hands of the local residents.

He explained that the Housing Bill grants permission in principle where land has been selected for housebuilding on brownfield land as well as local and neighbourhood plans, but developers still have to submit details of what they intend to build for approval before they can begin.

The Housing Minister pointed out that with over 80% of councils having a local plan in place, and over 100 communities having prepared neighbourhood plans, millions of residents will have direct input in how their area is developed.

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