Why ‘Conservatory party’ planning reforms may be a costly mistake - and their effects may last decades
“CONFUSION” over planning reforms may lead to bitterness and argument - and even hinder the industry they are supposed to help.
And Leamington is a perfect example of what one proposed reform - allowing broadband suppliers to put up cabinets in historic conservation areas - could lead to.
With the economy “bumping along the bottom”, the Government last week announced proposals to boost the construction sector, seen as an engine of growth.
These include a proposed ‘holiday’ on planning consent for extensions of up to 26ft and the relaxation of constraints on the green belt.
The Government will consult on a three-year period in which homes and businesses are can make greater alterations without planning permission.
Local Government minister Eric Pickles MP announced he is cutting ‘red tape’ - blaming ‘top down’ planning laws and councils for holding up progress.
Cllr George Illingworth, who chairs Warwick District Council’s planning committee, fears such publicity may lead to confusion, with many rushing into alterations without realising they still need permission.
And he said encouraging extensions would mean people made their homes more expensive instead of moving, and slowing down the housing market.
Cllr Illingworth (Con, Kenilworth Park Hill) defended planners, saying developers already had permission for hundreds of homes that had not been started, while work had not been completed on a further 900.
Those behind major development will be allowed to apply to extend consent on large sites, and section 106 agreements, in which developers pay for schools and other infrastructure, may also be reformed, with scope to renegotiate “non-viable” agreements made before April 2010.
Cllr Illingworth said a shortage of ‘affordable’ homes would not be met by allowing developers to get out of building them, even if the current system did not work.
He said: “They say it’s the planning system that’s holding things up. It isn’t round here. What’s happening is that people don’t have the money.”
Another proposal would allow internet suppliers to put up broadband cabinets (pictured above) in conservation areas - such as the historic centres of Leamington, Warwick and Kenilworth - without planning permission.
Cllr Illingworth recalled how a contractor for BT Openworld put up several cabinets in Leamington without checking whether they needed consent, only to have to move them from sensitive locations.
One such box was put up outside the house of Richard Ashworth, chairman of conservation group the Leamington Society. He described the relaxations as “short-term foolishness” that created huge scope for bitterness and argument, and might not make any significant difference to the economy.
He added: “This is something of a short-term gimmick but in some instances could have damaging consequences which could last for decades.
“If there are good planning reasons for these things not to be done, then they shouldn’t be done.”
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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