A HACKNEY Labour motion was overwhelmingly passed at a Council meeting on July 21, committing Hackney Council to campaign against the Tory Government’s Planning reforms, calling them a “developers’ charter” while the Hackney Conservatives unanimously stood with the Government and against local people.
The reforms would see:
the scrapping of Local Plans that are co-produced between councils and their communities;
the zoning of areas into ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ or ‘protection’ areas, decided by Whitehall civil servants, not Town Halls; and,
the automatic approval of developments and the end of resident consultation in growth and renewal areas.
Proposing the motion, Cllr Steve Race, Labour Councillor for Hoxton East & Shoreditch, said: “As local councillor for Hoxton East and Shoreditch, I saw just how much effort went into developing the Shoreditch Plan in partnership with the local community
“This new planning framework proposed by the Government is the very opposite of this approach. It will fail to deliver homes, it has no vision for decarbonisation of existing stock, and it will lead to the wrong buildings, in the wrong place, with the wrong infrastructure.”
“But it also represents centralisation at its very worst, an assault on local democracy and accountability – an attitude that Whitehall knows what’s best for residents in Hackney, in Hartlepool, and in Hale. We know differently – residents and elected representatives have a far better idea of what is best for their local communities than someone sitting in an office in SW1A.”
Seconding the motion, Cllr Katie Hanson, Labour Councillor for Victoria, said: “They want to tinker with the planning system but it isn’t that planning system that is the problem ─ it is the housing delivery system. There are one million homes in the UK that have been given planning permission but not built ─ that’s where they should be looking.
“What everyone knows is that in Hackney, what we need is more affordable, well designed and sustainable homes and the proposals will do absolutely nothing to deliver those. Instead, they want to take power away from local government and from the citizens of Hackney.”
Mayor Philip Glanville: ‘An attack on local democracy’
Philip Glanville, the Labour & Co-operative Mayor of Hackney, called the proposed reforms “a developers’ charter, fixing the game for Tory party donors” and “an attack on local democracy.”
He added: “undoubtedly there is a housing crisis in this country, a crisis of supply and affordability, but what is not to blame is the planning system.
“It was telling that the Hackney Tories spoke about people who owned their own home and land, and stood up for developers. Because they are the people that will benefit from this Government’s planning reforms, not those waiting in temporary accommodation that desperately need a social home.
“Rather than giving councils the funding they need to build new social homes, rather than prioritizing the ending of section 21 while giving councils the power to licence the private rented sector, or rather than respecting Mayor Sadiq Khan’s mandate to introduce rent controls, they are going for the planning system.”
Cllr Guy Nicholson, Deputy Mayor of Hackney and Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “When it comes to building homes, planning is not the problem. Since 2010, 90 per cent of planning applications have been approved by Hackney Council but 25 per cent have not been built. That is over 2,000 approved homes that developers are sitting on.
“If this Tory government wants to really tackle the housing crisis, they need to reform the private rented sector and give councils the grant funding they need to build council homes for social rent.”
The move comes as Labour’s Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Steve Reed MP sent the following letter to every councillor in the country asking them to unite against the proposals:
The Government has published highly controversial proposals to reform the planning system. One aspect that has raised particular concern is the proposal to remove local residents’ right to object to individual planning applications in their own neighbourhood if the area is zoned for growth or renewal.
Last week, the House of Commons called on the Government to protect residents’ right to retain a voice over planning applications, recognizing that the best way to get necessary new homes built is to support communities, councils and developers to work in partnership.
I attach a copy of the motion passed by the House of Commons with support from MPs of all political parties. I urge you to ask your council to pass the same motion so we can show widespread support for the principle of protecting residents’ right to a say over individual planning applications in their own area. Many local people have already expressed anger that this long-established democratic right is under threat.
Please let me know if you intend to ask your council to support the motion. I would also welcome other views you may have on the proposed planning reforms and your ideas for how we can best protect the voice of local people and their elected councillors over planning decisions.
Steve Reed MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
The Council meeting and motion debate can be viewed on the Council’s YouTube page here, at 02:59: https://youtu.be/htCbq1vj6ZY?t=10756
The Conservative Government’s intention to change planning rules to benefit developers were set out in ‘Planning for the Future’ in 2020, and were immediately branded a ‘Developer’s Charter’ by housing campaigners. The plans are due to return to Parliament after this year’s local elections.
The current planning system is locally-led, with councils and the communities they represent given a say over the way their neighbourhoods develop, and all residents given the chance to object to development that is overbearing, impacts on their quality of life, or that is not accompanied by funding for necessary infrastructure (eg schools, roads, health services).
The ‘Developer’s Charter’ proposals would take away the right of local people to comment or object to development in their area, instead allowing the Secretary of State to grant developers planning “permission in principle” without any local consultation on the application.
These changes to the planning system would help developers avoid contributions for affordable housing, local infrastructure, and avoid existing standards on good quality design, allowing them to rack up hundreds of millions of pounds extra profit without building any more homes.
The Government is already relaxing ‘permitted development’ rules to allow developers to ignore space standards and turn high street shops and offices into homes, none of which have to be affordable.
The proposals have attracted widespread criticism – except from developers. President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Alan Jones, branded the white paper’s proposals as “shameful”, the Campaign to Protect Rural England voiced concerns about community involvement, and the housing charity Shelter expressed concern at the reforms’ potential impact on social housing.
Conservative Ministers have claimed that the reforms are needed to speed up housebuilding, even though over one million planning permissions have not been built out in the last decade.
The Conservative Party received £11m in donations from developers in Boris Johnson’s first year as Prime Minister and £891,000 from developers in the first three months of 2021 alone.
The full motion passeed by Hackney Council at its recent meeting is:
The Future of Planning Motion
Hackney Council this year approved and adopted its new inclusive and sustainable Local Plan (LP33) after a lengthy period of community consultation. LP33 sits alongside a range of supporting policy documents that includes our ambitious community-led Area Plans for Shoreditch, Dalston, Hackney Central, and Stamford Hill, and a portfolio of progressive supplementary planning documents (SPD); the most recent SPD adopted by the Council, guides new development to create Child Friendly Places.
Hackney Council believes the Government’s proposed Planning Reform white paper is fundamentally flawed. The proposals undermine the local democratic place-making and determination process, restricts residents’ participation in the Planning process, and centralises all Planning gain, to be redistributed by central Government.
We believe that Planning works best when local communities, Councillors, Councils, and developers work together to shape local neighbourhoods to deliver much-needed new homes and workspaces, alongside coordinating the funding and delivery of neighbourhood-based infrastructure.
We believe that the benefits of Section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy Planning gain must remain locally-held by the Council for, and on behalf of, the community the Council serves. This means funding can be effectively targeted at and respond to the infrastructure needs created by the demand brought about by new development, and not handed over to central Government to distribute as it sees fit.
Council therefore resolves:
To call on the Government to review the Planning Reform white paper to protect the right of local communities to object to individual planning applications and protect the right to engage with all aspects of the Planning process.
To ensure that locally-collected Planning gain remains local.
To ensure that future development is led by local planning and place-making.
To ensure that local democratically accountable determination remains at the heart of Hackney’s sustainable and inclusive Planning process.
That the Mayor, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Chair of Planning Committee write to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government outlining the Council’s concerns about the Planning Reform white paper, copying in Hackney’s MPs, the Minister for Planning and the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government.