DELIGHTED to see that Wiltshire Council is taking a robust line with the government in defence of local democracy.
Its response to the Tories’ proposed ‘simplification’ of the planning system is an impressive piece of work and I really can’t find anything to disagree with!
It’s quite lengthy, so here are some of the key points, which were agreed on a grown-up cross-party basis.
They need the ability “to force developers to develop allocated strategic sites within reasonable timescales”. And so say all of us!
They want “a consistent housing target for a specific period of time that is not constantly being updated”. No more moving the goalposts.
In their words: “Please tell us how many houses we need to build and let us get on with ensuring they are delivered. This would enable planners to concentrate on place making rather than numbers.”
Here’s what they say about developers’ shenanigans and how they take advantage of the requirement for the council to have a five-year housing land supply.
Sometimes the builders are “not keen to develop identified strategic sites in a timely manner, particularly where they are less financially attractive than other green field sites. As a result, by delaying the delivery of those sites they are able to manipulate the five-year land supply and to bring other sites forward.” We all know it, but it’s nice to hear our elected representatives laying it on the line.
“Sites should be built out at a sensible rate after their approval. There is currently no incentive for developers to build out when house prices continue to appreciate and so they can generate greater future returns by sitting on development sites and waiting.
“There needs to be a system where if development does not occur it is possible for local authorities or government to force it to occur.”
That’s not all, by any means.
They have a real crack at the poor design standards produced by the volume builders – a topic I’ve touched on recently in this blog.
“There has been too much poor design, particularly when it comes to larger developments in Wiltshire,” they say.
“The current planning system has not made it easy to address this. There have also been too many developments which are poorly designed when it comes to fitting into and relating with existing housing and infrastructure.”
They’re not just moaning, though. They are offering their own suggestions for how to fix this mess with a better system than that being proposed.
As I say, it’s a lengthy read but it repays the effort and I might quote you some more chunks of it another day. Find it at wiltshire.gov.uk/planning-policy under the Planning for the Future link.