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SLCC Meets with DLUHC to Discuss Planning Reforms

Time Published 20 July 2022

SLCC’s National Planning Advisor, Andrew Towlerton attended a roundtable discussion on Friday 15 July 2022 with senior civil servants from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC) on the planning reforms contained in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill.

The meeting was one of a series of discussions DLUHC are holding with wider ‘community’ planning stakeholders.

There were around a dozen people in attendance, including five DLUHC civil servants. The remainder were drawn from a wide and diverse range of community groups, with a particular emphasis on the gypsy and traveller community.

It was noted that town and parish councils are central to a number of the reforms, in terms of their delivery and impact, neighbourhood planning, and planning more generally.

Neighbourhood plans will remain at the heart of the planning system and the provisions will strengthen this.
There was recognition that many local authorities actively hinder their preparation and DLUHC are looking at what further action can be taken to address this.

It was explicitly stated that the DLUHC saw town and parish councils at the forefront of taking forward the new simpler neighbourhood planning tool – the Neighbourhood Priorities Statement. This was slightly at odds with the views of John Howell MP, the Government Neighbourhood Planning Champion, who considered the tool was mainly aimed at non-parished areas. This was raised with Chris Mountain, Head of Neighbourhood Planning and that SLCC would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further.

It is likely to take some time to introduce the new mandatory infrastructure levy, which would principally replace the current system of developer contributions – the community infrastructure levy (CIL) and s106. This may disappoint some of our members who wished to see it introduced quickly, which I stated at the meeting. There are expected to be a series of consultations about the detail, with the new levy initially being trialled in a few areas.

There was a lot of discussion about the new design codes. In particular, who produces the more detailed site or neighbourhood ones – as many local planning authorities lack the resources to develop the more detailed ones and there were some concerns if developers could prepare them. I stated that in parished areas there should be guidance they can only be undertaken by, or with, the active involvement of the relevant town or parish council – similar to neighbourhood plans.

Strong emphasis was given to digitising the planning system and the benefits this will bring. While there was general support, some concerns were raised that this should be in addition to, and not at the expense of, the traditional means to engage in the planning system. Also, a risk was raised that it would widen the gap between the digital haves and have nots and that not all local authorities would fully digitise their service. DLUHC stated they are piloting this in several areas and which is going well and DLUHC welcomed discussions with town and parish councils about their ideas and experiences, as key users.

There would be greater compulsory purchase powers and new powers to force landlords to find tenants for vacant high street buildings. These powers would be mainly available to local authorities, but communities including town and parish councils would benefit from them.

The street votes system which would permit residents to propose development on their street and hold a vote on whether it should be given planning permission, was essentially skipped over.

It was raised that while greater pre-application discussions were a good idea, it was a serious omission that there would be no requirement for community groups, including town and parish councils, to be involved in them. The DLUHC officials said they would look into this.

When asked how planning authorities would fund many of the new proposals, reference was made to giving them greater opportunities to increase planning fees.

 

 

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