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Lib Dem Response to Government White Paper on Planning

October 30, 2020 1:08 PM

Romsey, Hampshire, is a small Hampshire Market Town located six miles from Southampton. Its town centre clusters around the famous Norman Abbey and it has a large and characterful Conservation Area. Its suburbs are thus under very significant development pressure as residents from the nearby South Hampshire conurbation seek housingout the market town experience and move into the catchment of the town's excellent primary and secondary schools.

In the last five years or so 1,356 new dwellings have been built to the north east of the town. The Borough Local Plan 2016 - 2026 allocates 1,300 more dwellings to the south east of the town. The BLP requires that 588 dwellings are provided annually, 273 of which are in the area immediately surrounding Romsey. Last year Test Valley Borough Council exceeded its housing target, building 948 new homes, 315 of which were affordable or for rent. This has given the borough some headroom in regard to its 'five-year-housing-land-supply'. This has had the unfortunate effect of affecting the algorithm used by the Government which now determines we need to allocate 813 dwellings a year. I strongly object to the increase in the annual requirement from 588 to 813. TVBC is already exceeding its five year land supply but developers are reluctant to build more dwellings than the local market can cope with. The Local Plan, based on well researched housing need studies is the way to determine housing numbers , not a centrally imposed number derived from an inappropriate algorithm.

I am also very concerned about:-

1 ...proposals for automatic rights to build in 'growth' areas, and increased permitted development rights, which risk unregulated growth and unsustainable communities.

2 ...the loss of the Section 106 system and the current Community Infrastructure Levy. Both S106 and CIL have been broadly successful in delivering local infrastructure commensurate with the volume of new housing development. Replacing S106 and CIL by a national levy simply removes control by local people and local councils.

3 ... the removal of control over land identified as 'renewal' from the local authority in favour of national guidance. Residents already feel that matters that affect their environment are out of their hands. The White Paper simply reinforces this trend.

4 ... imposing a 30 month time limit on local plan production which will have an impact on the consultation process. The most important aspect of the local plan process is to ensure that residents feel they own their plan. Consultation, including 'bottom-up' planning as is being achieved by TVBC's Romsey Future project, is vital to the Local Plan being seen as acceptable. Imposed plans create ill-feeling and bring the whole process of land-use allocation into disrepute.

The Government needs to ensure that the current planning system works effectively and fairly rather than de-constructing present system. In Test Valley 95% of planning applications are given permission. Nationally more than one million homes with planning permission have not been built by developers. For example, there is a 2.8 hectare site, the old brewery site, adjacent to the town centre which has been vacant since 1989 and has an extant planning permission dating from 2006, for 207 dwellings of which only 12 have ever been constructed. Every effort by the town and borough to get the site developed has been ignored by the developer. A site value tax which commences three years after a permission has been granted is an effective way of bring both this site and the other one million permissioned dwellings forward and would contribute significantly to the Government's overall housing target of 300,000 dwellings a year.