Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, defended reforms of the planning system after his labour predecessor, Lord Prescott, accused the changes of “dismantling” the institutions needed to ensure housing growth.
Speaking as the government’s Localism Bill reached report stage in the House of Commons, Pickles told a specially convened debate to honour the memory of Alan Cherry, founder of Countryside, that his reforms would force local councils to accept responsibility for meeting the housing needs of their areas.
Referring to the planned introduction into the planning system of a presumption in favour of sustainable development, Pickles said: “Where a local plan fails to recognise that need, fails to plan for enough housing, enough mobile telephone masts, then that plan is no defence against the planned presumption in favour.
“Where the plan is inadequate, where it’s out of date, where it’s ambiguous, then the council will also have no defence.”
We’ve all failed to deliver enough homes up to now. We have to try the new answer, because all of the old ones haven’t worked
Lord Gummer, former Tory planning minister
The comments confirm that the planned presumption in favour of sustainable development will apply even in areas with existing local plans. Developers are now awaiting the criteria under which the validity of those plans are judged, expected in the National Planning Framework, to be published shortly.
Pickles’ arguments were backed by Lord Gummer, former Tory planning minister, speaking at the debate, who said that: “We have to accept we’ve all failed to deliver enough homes up to now. We have to try the new answer, because all of the old ones haven’t worked.”
The comments came as the government was this week expected to fight off calls from a committee of MPs to insert more environmental protections in the Localism Bill, and an attempt by Tory bankbench MP Philip Davies to limit developers’ rights to appeal planning decisions that go against them.
Lord Prescott had earlier told the debate that localism was “too small” to provide the vision of new communities needed in the UK. Prescott said: “I thought the legacy at [Countryside development] Greenwich [Millennium Village] should be more than the Dome, or housing, but education, health centres, retail, public space. Localism is too small to deal with the vision for the regions that can provide growth. Absolutely it will damage it [growth].
“There are bigger debates than can be dealt with by localism. My concern is the framework for this debate - regionalism - is being disassembled.”
Localism is too small to deal with the vision for the regions that can provide growth. Absolutely it will damage it [growth]
This came as planners and environmentalists rounded on the government for another amendment to the Localism Bill allowing councils to give consideration to the availability of government grants when making planning decisions.
The pro-development move, which was passed by MPs this week, is designed to protect Pickles’ New Homes Bonus policy from potential legal challenge.
This policy involved up to £10,000 being paid to councils for the completion of new homes.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England said it was considering its position regarding a legal challenge.
There are bigger debates that can be dealt with by localism. My concern is the framework for this debate - regionalism - is being disassembled
Where a local plan fails to provide enough housing, enough mobile phone masts, then that plan is no defence against the planned presumption in favour
Eric Pickles, communities secretary