Housing and Planning — [Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 3rd March 2020.

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Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Conservative, Harborough 2:30 pm, 3rd March 2020

My hon. Friend is completely correct. People want a proper plan-led system. Other countries achieve that by allowing local government to play a stronger role in determining where things go.

We must reform the 1961 Act to make it clear that buyers can pay current market use values for land rather inflated hope values. We should stop land prices being bid up in the first place, by stopping sites going through the plan-making process on the assumption that developers are going to get away without paying for infrastructure. We should turn Homes England into a flying squad to help councils plan and deliver brownfield regeneration. We must make sure that council planning departments are well enough resourced to retain good staff. It is a difficult industry where the poachers, as it were, can pay people a lot of money, and local councils often struggle to hang on to good staff.

My final proposed reform to the planning system is to reboot neighbourhood planning so that it can fulfil its potential. Many places in my constituency have drawn up neighbourhood plans, and people have given a lot of time to them. In some cases they have been a force for good and shaped the way in which, and where, things get built. In other cases, however, they have taken so long to draw up that developers have front-run them. Too many are lengthy and lack the one thing that would give them real bite, which is a map of where development does and does not go.

We should radically simplify and speed up the process of making neighbourhood plans. They should all have a clear map of where development does and does not go. Where councils are planning sensibly, we must give them more legal weight. As I argued in a report for the think-tank Onward, we should reward outstanding councils by making them exempt from any appeal to the planning inspector.