Broken Tory Housing Framework

In 2010 the coalition government tore up planning rules and introduced the
National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This has led to a flood of
speculative housing applications on greenfield sites in South Cheshire. Even
the government now admits that the housing market is broken. But the
government's 'solution' is to relax planning rules and to give even more
power to property developers. Labour would give more power to local
authorities to determine the sites where houses should and shouldn't be
built and to build council houses.

Under the current rules the harm caused by a planning application has to
significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits before it can be
refused. So even a bad planning application will be approved.

The way the Conservatives have weighted the scales in favour of property
speculators is illustrated by the rules on traffic congestion. New houses
create more traffic and it would be reasonable to expect the developers to
have to pay for road & cycling improvements to compensate for any
significant traffic problems they would cause. However, under the Tory
rules, the congestion has to be severe before a planning application can be
refused on highways grounds. Severe is not defined in the rules, but case
law suggests that delays of up to 20 minutes are not severe.
For example, Sandbach residents know that since the new housing in Elworth
has been built, it often takes 10 minutes longer to travel down Middlewich
Road. However, according to the governments highways rules this congestion
is not 'severe' and so planning permission for even more houses in Sandbach
cannot be refused on highways grounds.

Although Cheshire East Council hopes to have its long-awaited Local Plan in
place later this year, the Plan policies will be considered 'out of date' if
the council doesn't maintain a 5-year housing land supply. The Council will
be penalised if less than 1,800 houses a year are built in Cheshire East. If
fewer than 1,530 are built then the requirement is increased by 20%.
Furthermore, under the White Paper proposals, if the supply of new houses
falls below 65% of the required amount then the rules protecting
Neighbourhood Plans will not apply. So the Neighbourhood Plans which many
communities have spent thousands of hours preparing could be over-ruled if
the number of houses built falls below 1,400 a year in Cheshire East.

Nationally, there is a serious problem of 'land banking'. This is a practice
whereby private property development companies do not build the houses they
have been given planning permission for, because they want to restrict the
supply of new houses in the area to keep house prices high in that area.
House builders can also restrict the number of houses they build in areas
such as Cheshire East, so that the Council misses its targets for new
housing. When the Council misses its targets the government rules mean that
developers can demand planning permission for housing on sites where they
wouldn't normally get planning permission. Land with planning permission can
be worth millions of pounds more than land without planning permission, so
by 'land-banking' in this way the developers' land goes up in value and
their companies show large profits.

Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, "I am
pleased to have helped develop Labour Party policy to prevent land-banking.
I would like to see councils given the power to charge council tax on houses
that have not been built years after planning permission was granted. In
addition, councils should have the power to compulsorily purchase land that
has been allocated to housing but where development has not taken place.
Combining these 2 policies would mean that any property speculators who did
not build houses after obtaining planning permission would either have to
pay council tax on the unbuilt houses or waive the planning permission and
risk having the land compulsorily purchased at its agricultural value. These
policies would be effective in stopping land-banking and would encourage
genuine house builders, but strangely the Conservatives haven't adopted
these policies."

Irene Faseyi, Labour Councillor for Crewe Central, said, "The Tories keep
moving the goalposts on planning. The only thing that will stop the Tories
granting planning permission to speculative developers is when they start
losing elections."

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