Tory MP John Howell says current planning system ‘lost balance many years ago’

The Tory MP who was the author of the party’s ideas on planning reform has hit back at critics of the proposed changes stating that the current system is “broken” and lost balance many years ago.

MP John Howell also voiced his concern over the hysteria surrounding the proposed reforms to the planning system, which saw the topic make the front page lead on the Telegraph newspaper today.

The author of Open Source Planning said in a letter to the Times that there does not have to be a contradiction between development and protecting and enhancing the environment.

Howell says that councils will still be able to use brownfield sites if it is proved they are sustainable under the new Planning Policy Framework.

“The Framework encourages them [councils] to produce plans by using natural resources prudently and enabling the reuse of existing resources.” Howell said. “The planning system does not do this; it is broken and lost any balance some years ago.”

The Draft Planning Policy Framework which was published in July has drawn developers and conservationists into an increasingly bitter battle over the future of planning in the UK.

The coalition’s plan to reduce thousands of pages of planning policy into new rules about 60 pages long has left the government open to accusations that it could lead to over development of the countryside. The Telegraph reported today that regulatory impact assessments for the changes published by the government admitted that 1,000 extra major developments a year could be allowed under the new system.

Conservationists are concerned that the new presumption in favour of sustainable development will allow planning applications which would normally be blocked to be waived through automatically. However ministers say that the new rules will give communities more power.

The Telegraph, which yesterday launched a campaign calling on ministers to rethink the planning policy, has calculated that a 5% increase in major applications – which are applications of at least one hectare – would lead to 1,200 major developments being approved.

Howell added: “The hysteria that some organisations are trying to generate over our reforms is due more to them being afraid of change to a system that they will no longer be able to control because it puts trust and knowledge in the hands of local people.”