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Planning proposals not what's needed agrees public meeting

October 21, 2020 2:07 PM

Houses with bannerThe government's White Paper on planning reforms is a missed opportunity to resolve the country's housing crisis and does nothing to address the issues we face in the South Hams, agreed councillors and public at a meeting held on Tuesday October 20th online.

While the Government claims there has not been enough house building to meet demand, Totnes Councillor John Birch reminded the meeting that planning permission has already been granted for 6,950 dwellings that have not yet been implemented.

"There is no pressure on or incentive for developers to build the houses they already have permission for," he said.

"If we can't make the builders build what they have already got planning permission for, then we are not going to get anywhere," said attendee Mark Lawrence.

Other issues raised were the number of houses that the new planning rules will require to be built across the South Hams - 769 houses per year instead of the 324 already agreed in the existing Joint Local Plan. That adds up to 10,000 more homes between now and 2034.

But Councillor Julian Brazil, Chair of the SHDC Development Management Committee, said this will do nothing to lower prices in an area where the average house price is more than 11 times the average income - the aim behind the algorithm that has come up with this number.

"One problem is the ridiculous uplift in land value once land is given planning permission. Land worth £10,000 an acre could be worth half a million once it gets planning permission… That financial incentive that is built into our planning system is so wrong," he said.

Brazil proposed other, more imaginative solutions that could lead to increased housing supply, a dampening of demand in places like the South Hams and more affordable homes. Policies like that passed in St Ives to restrict the purchase of new builds to local residents, increased council tax on second homes, and closing the loophole that allows second home owners to register them as a business and pay no council tax.

Other issues in the white paper that were raised were changing permitted development that would enable shops to be turned into houses without permission, neighbourhood plans and social housing.

"Island Street in Salcombe is a classic example of where this could have a massive impact, with the old boat chandlers and marine businesses. They'd be worth a fortune as homes on the waterfront," said Brazil.

Caroline Adams from Newton & Noss Parish Council mentioned that they had used their local neighbourhood plan successfully on several occasions to oppose planning applications which they felt weren't right for their community.

The time and effort that has gone into such plans seems to have been wasted, in the view of many attending last night, as the new legislation provides no role for Parish Councils in deciding what can be built and where.

"A new approach to planning policy could start to address our broken housing market. It needs to be based on need not greed. Houses should be looked at as somewhere to live, not a financial investment. The planning white paper is an abject failure to address these issues," said Brazil.