The Government is planning to scrap local authority charges for extensions to family homes and conversions of annexes into granny flats. Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, wants to stop councils imposing “section 106” levies on homeowners. Small builders will also no longer have to pay the charges, which can reach £32,000 for permission to build a two-storey, three-bedroom house. Mr Pickles will begin a consultation this week on abolishing section 106 charges, which are imposed to raise money for affordable housing. Meanwhile, in her column for the Sun, Sarah Beeney says that the planning system should be put out to tender. She suggests that in order to end local authorities’ “absolute monopoly” on the system, people should be able to seek planning permission either from their own local authority or from one of two neighbouring councils.
Above is a story from the LGiU.
Now then, let’s have a think about the implications of what Sarah Beeney is said to be promoting. If you live in Sefton, for example, we are surrounded by just 3 neighbouring Councils i.e. West Lancs, Knowsley and Liverpool. Under what she is suggesting, according to the LGiU, people wishing to build in the Borough could apply for planning permission from 2 of our 3 neighbouring Councils (which would be selected by tender?) as alternatives to applying for such permission from Sefton.
The obvious things that come to mind are:-
* People would select the local authority/service provider that charged the least for an application.
* People would select the Council/service provider that seemingly passed the most applications.
* Planning Officers, who review all applications, based in say Liverpool may not know much at all about say Southport.
* Residents opposing applications may have to try to lobby councillors on a Planning Committee that no one in their council area has elected?
Gaining planning permission can be a hugely contentious process and I would be the very last person to say the present system works well, but would Sarah’s suggestion really be an improvement?
Planning policies, as I have said before on this site, do need reform as they are seriously flawed. Present policies do not, in my view, place enough weight on environmental considerations such as flooding and the utter madness of building on high grade agricultural land. The bottom line is that Planning should not be dominated by economic factors; environmental sustainability should be paramount if we are serious about passing on to future generations places where we would both want to and be able to live sustainably.