Planning committees prioritise affordable homes over Green Belt
Preserving the Green Belt has dropped down the list of priorities for North West planning committee members, as councillors now look to delivering affordability and economic growth, according to Newgate’s Planning Committee Barometer.
The Planning Committee Barometer, which surveyed 344 planning committee members nationwide, suggests that local councillors feel that the housing crisis is getting worse, with challenging relationships within the planning system stymying the UK’s ability to tackle the issue.
Nationally, 62% of councillors think the housing crisis is getting worse, 68% of councillors think housing supply is either severely lacking or could do with a little more, and 75% of respondents believe viability assessments are being used by developers to avoid planning obligations, rising from 60% last year, while 65% of councillors blamed slow build-out rates on developers; an increase of 14% from 2018.
Meanwhile, in a sign that council attitudes to Green Belt development could be softening, only 14% of respondents saw preserving the green belt as a key priority, down 4 percentage points from last year.
In the North West, the majority of councillors listed delivering affordable homes, economic growth, and creating thriving town centres as their top three priorities. Last year, protecting Green Belt was also in the top three, but this year moved down to ninth place.
59% North West councillors surveyed supported a review of Green Belt, compared to 15% of residents. In 2018, 59% of councillors surveyed were against Green Belt review.
The biggest challenge to delivering homes, both nationally and in the North west, was identified as slow build out by developers.
While 37% of councillors surveyed said they would meet with developers with planning officers present, and described planning officer reports as the most useful resource when deciding on an application, this didn’t necessarily translate to easy planning committee meetings.
According to the survey, 50% of respondents in region had voted against officer recommendations three to five times in the past 12 months, with 16% saying they had voted against recommendation up to 10 times.
Perry Miller, partner at Newgate Communications, said: “It’s concerning that the blame game is growing at a time when we need to be building such a significant number of homes. There’s a disconnect between councillors and housebuilders and it would be no surprise to find these results mirroring each other if you asked the private sector for their opinions on local planning authorities.
“The housing crisis must be tackled together: communication, mutual understanding and trust are vital in delivering schemes that work for everyone – not least, local communities.”