Examination of Witnesses

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:40 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Alex Morton:

I think we have covered most things that I had down. The one element that we have not touched on is the goal of streamlining planning and local plans. Perhaps more should be being pushed down than up. By that I mean I would that rather local plans were a series of site allocation policies and strategic policies around transport, and then local people should have a greater say on what happens on those sites, whether through neighbourhood plans or the neighbourhood priority statements that the Government are already trying to do. There is an argument that if development is happening in your community, and you can shape how it looks and what infrastructure and other benefits come with it, you are more likely to be in favour of it, or at least not hostile.

Therefore, rather than trying to have a system that says, “Let’s strip out all the local plan policies”—which I think is absolutely necessary, and the Government are absolutely right to proceed, because local plans take far too long and are out of touch by the time they are finished—you could create processes around how we get on sites, particularly larger sites, where they have been allocated, and how we engage with the community as part of that local planning process, so that, at the end of it, you have a local plan with a list of sites and some overlapping strategic policies, and then local people get to choose things like design or what benefits come with it. That would be a good way to square the circle around streamlining, without running to this argument that you are centralising and taking powers away. I don’t think the Government is trying to do that; I think they are genuinely trying to fix the housing crisis, but I understand why MPs are saying that, and I think that could be an alternative way, as the Bill develops, to get there.