Planning system favours developers over communities, say 3 out of 4 councillors

The planning system is working in the interests of developers over councils and local communities, according to a new survey of councillors.

In a poll of over 1,200 ward councillors in England by the Local Government Information Unit for the National Trust, 72 per cent said the system is weighted too far in favour of developers.

Half said sites not in line with their council's Local Plan are being approved for new housing, while 58 per cent with greenbelt land in their area think the council will allocate some of it for housing in the next five years.

Half of respondents also said planning departments are under-resourced.

The planning system is one of the fundamental pillars of local democracy, allowing communities to help shape the physical structure of the places they live. Councillors are the most important link between communities and that system. Our survey with the National Trust shows that many councillors feel that this democratic tool is at risk of being undermined," said LGiU chief executive Jonathan Carr-West.

Less than one in five councillors (18 per cent) felt design quality has improved since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework, while only 12 per cent said the loosening of planning restrictions has had a positive impact.

The survey found concerns that the Housing Whitepaper expected later this month could make matters worse by setting out rigid housing numbers for Local Plans that do not take account of local factors such as greenbelt or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

"It's now almost five years after the Government's planning framework was adopted, so it's worrying that councillors feel it hasn't delivered the localism that was promised," said Ingrid Samuel, historic environment director at the National Trust.

"If ministers are serious about Local Plans being at the heart of the planning system then they should invest in council planning teams and use the Housing Whitepaper to give them the tools to deliver good quality housing in the right places."

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