Maidenhead MP Theresa May speaks out over Government's major planning reforms

Maidenhead MP Theresa May fears a major shake-up of the Government’s planning system will stop residents being able to have their say on housing redevelopments.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined his plans to push through the proposed Planning Bill in last week’s Queen’s Speech.

The reforms could see land classed in three categories of Growth, Renewal and Protected areas.

Any developments in Growth areas will secure automatic outline planning permission with Renewal areas deemed suitable for some development and Protected areas off limits.

The Government also wants to remove the opportunity for residents to object to developments at the planning application stage due to concerns this holds up the planning process.

People will instead only be given the chance to engage when a broad development plan is agreed for the area as part of plans to ‘streamline the opportunity for consultation at the planning application stage’.

Mrs May told the Advertiser: “I think an awful lot of people do get involved in the process and it’s important that people still have the opportunity.

“This is an issue that does generate a lot of comments from people locally.”

The former Prime Minister said developers who secure planning permission but fail to build-out on their sites were to blame for a lack of housing supply, rather than the planning system.

She added: “The Local Government Association has calculated there’s something like a million outstanding planning applications that have been given permission that have not yet been built.

“It seems to me we need to be looking in a different place if we’re looking at what the blockage is to homes being built for people.

“Developers can put in an application, get planning permission for a site, sit on that and they can then trade that and sell that land with planning permission.”

The Maidenhead MP said allowing local authorities to have ‘Restricted’ areas would not solve disputes over where housing can be built as the Government would still put pressure on councils to find other ways to meet their housing targets.

“The problem is there will be a lot of councils that will want to give significant areas of protected status but Government will still be requiring them to build certain numbers of homes,” Mrs May added.

“I suspect what you would see is if councils come forward with too many protected areas Government will be acting to find a way to ensure there are growth areas.

“It’s not going to be just a simple system of ‘council X says this whole area should be protected’.”

Mrs May also disagreed that a switch to a digital planning system would reduce bureaucracy and backed calls from the News Media Association for public notices to remain a statutory obligation in local newspapers.

A spokesman for he Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “The Planning Reform Bill will simplify and modernise the system. It will establish a clear set of rules – from where communities want homes to be built, to the high design and environmental standards that must be met.

“We expect developers and local authorities to work together to ensure that developments are delivered as quickly as possible where planning permission is granted.

“Proposed changes to the planning system will make it faster and will improve build-out rates by incentivising developers to start construction promptly after receiving permission.“

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