Opposition to planning applications is BANANAS - 52M Consulting Limited

Opposition to planning applications is BANANAS

Opposition to planning applications is BANANAS and it's why the planning system in England needs to be overhauled if we're to get anything built. 


For a start, it is overly bureaucratic. Planning applications are costly and have become increasingly complex - even for smaller, simpler schemes.

Right now, anyone can object to proposed new development - whether or not they live in the area where the development may take place and regardless of whether or not they might be directly affected by it.

And, for schemes covered by the Town and Country planning regime, decisions on proposals are often made by local elected representatives that can be lobbied by voters and campaign groups into thinking they could lose their seat next time they go to the polls.

All of which means that those people with a Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone (so-called BANANAs) mentality are able to game it all too easily. 

The planning system would be greatly improved, without detriment to local decision-making and the democratic process, with these three simple changes.

Firstly, widen the use of Permitted Development.

This would in effect take more schemes out of the planning system altogether, remove a major bottleneck and accelerate development.

For instance, if a local developer wants to build three residential dwellings on a small plot, why not let it - provided it can conform to a set of binding limitations - without requiring a full planning application?

The same could apply to ground-mounted solar farms, small wind farms and waste-to-energy facilities like anaerobic digestion etc - provided that a set of standard rules can be met for each. The principle already works well in the environmental permitting regime.

Secondly, discount consultation responses and objections from anyone that doesn't live in the same local authority district.

It's far too easy, especially in the case of larger, more complex schemes that find themselves branded 'controversial', for letters of objection to be sent in by people that live nowhere near the proposed development and that cannot be affected by it one way or another. These individuals are often motivated by ideology (for instance, they may be opposed to the principle of developing wind farms). Their views should count for significantly less than someone who will have to live next door to a proposed development.

And, thirdly, take the politics out of the decision-making process.

There is already provision within the Town and Country planning regime for planning applications to be determined by council Officers, rather than elected Members, under delegated powers.

Unlike elected Members, planning Officers cannot be put under political pressure by voters. They're also experts in planning matters and planning law, rather than lay people.

Transferring decision-making authority to Officers in all cases would allow for better decisions based solely and dispassionately on planning grounds. Crucially, however, it would also ensure that decisions are locally made rather than being transferred to a government appointed planning inspector.

And, if they think a decision stinks, local people can still challenge it through Judicial Review in the administrative courts.

Given that nobody ever wants anything new built near them, but build we must, these changes would help to overcome barriers to progress.

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