Planning reform is needed, but we have to get it right

9th November 2011

There continues to be much concern about the Government’s draft National Planning Policy Framework, currently being consulted on by ministers.

Environmental groups and communities at large are quite rightly concerned about the possibility of developments springing up haphazardly on greenbelt land.

Meanwhile, developers in both the private and public spheres claim they are being restricted by a lack of available land. There is also the issue of encouraging growth in the economy which is the main reason behind the quick pace of the consultation.

There’s been some tough rhetoric from both sides, such as Stuart Baseley, of the Home Builders Federation, claiming that the UK faces a ‘house-building ice age’ unless the planning proposals are implemented in their current form. Meanwhile, the anti development lobby believes the NPPF could ‘ruin the face of Britain’ if it is rushed through.

The proposal for a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ has caused much of the concern and, on the face of it, it does seem at odds with parts of the Government’s Localism Bill which aims to give more autonomy to local communities.

As a specialist affordable housing developer, we obviously have a vested interest in this debate. Our work with housing associations and registered social landlords has already provided us with experience in developing sites that have utilised some greenbelt land.

With less space becoming available, there is going to be an ever stronger argument for using greenfield sites, either in full or in part. The NPPF needs to find a way that enables this to happen without compromising the environment and communities.

For this reason, I would agree that Government needs to take its time to get the NPPF right. If it’s rushed, there’s a danger we end up with a legacy of quick and cheap development, including poor and inadequate housing.

Surely, this would only result in tougher planning laws in the future when such mistakes are realised and we end up back at square one with a cumbersome planning policy.

Greg Mulligan is a director of Mulbury Homes