The government’s planning reforms should put power back into the hands of London boroughs to decide what is right for their local area, it has been claimed.
Guidance on the planning system has been slashed from 1,000 pages to approximately 50 and the government says it now focuses on “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, which should help encourage growth.
Home Builders Federation head of communications Steve Turner said the reforms to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) should be good news for construction companies in the capital.
Turner said: “Any attempt to reduce red tape is welcomed. We have instances where plans have taken years to process so a reduction will be good. What we now need to see is how London boroughs will adopt this and how it fits in with the mayor’s housing plan.
“London is one of a minority of areas that has a housing plan in place. Over the next 12 months, all boroughs will assess plans to see if they align with the NPPF framework and we are confident they will.”
Turner believes the new planning rules will give London boroughs more chance to decide what is right for the local area and make decisions about planning based on this.
“The new system puts the onus on London boroughs,” he said. “It puts the power in the hands of the local boroughs to asses their own needs. Local authorities now have the power, the decisions have been switched to them, which is the shift in the localism agenda the government wanted.”
Planning rules have returned to a “brownfield first” policy, which will need council to favour previously used land for new developments, rather than working on greenfield sites.
Businesses have also given a thumbs up to the new planning rules.
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Liz Pearce from the British Property Federation said the NPPF was now a “more moderate and sensible document”. She said the changes to the framework keep in place its overall aim of supporting well-planed and sustainable growth within a plan-led system.
She added: “Government has made some sensible concessions while still ensuring that local authorities must provide homes and jobs where they are needed.”
However, the reforms have not been so popular with environmental groups. Greenpeace’s Ruth Davis said chancellor George Osborne was wrong to think the economy could be boosted by removing protection for the natural habit.
Davis said: “If, in the coming months, we start to see the development of projects that burden communities with more traffic, noise and pollution, suck up scarce local water resources, or destroy precious countryside, not only will it be a political disaster for the government – they will also be guilty of undermining the future.”