Local planning weighted in favour of developers, survey suggests

A survey carried out by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), and commissioned by the National Trust, has revealed 72 per cent of ward councillors believe the local planning system benefits developers at the expense of councils and local communities.

The survey of over 1,200 ward councillors found over half of councillors believe sites which are not in line with the local authoirty’s plan are being approved for housing in their area.

Many of the respondents also cited concerns about Green Belt release and the loosening of the planning system through the introduction of permitted development rights for home extensions, office to residential use conversion, barn conversions and other changes of use.

Meanwhile, other councillors highlighted under-resourcing of planning teams as a major concern.

The National Trust and the LGiU both outlined concerns that many councillors have over the new Housing White Paper, including worries the housing numbers do not take account of local factors such as Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The groups called for: more resources for Local Planning Authorities to help get local plans in place; stronger government backing for councils setting design standards; and a smart approach to meeting housing need which allows councils to recognise local constraints and focuses development in the most appropriate places.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGiU, said: “The planning system is one of the fundamental pillars of local democracy, allowing communities to help shape the physical structure of the places they live.

“Councillors are the most important link between communities and that system. Our survey with the National Trust shows that many councillors feel that this democratic tool is at risk of being undermined.”