To receive a presentation from Sarah Cary (Executive Director Place) on the new planning white paper and extension of permitted development regulations.
The panel received a presentation from Sarah Cary (Executive Director Place) on the future landscape of planning. Copies of the presentation slides are attached to the agenda and are available on request from the Committee Secretary.
1. Presentation on changes to the planning landscape
Sarah Cary highlighted the following from her presentation:
· The changes set out were being proposed by the Government which she was reporting, not promoting. She would encourage as many people as possible to respond to the Government consultations which could be found on the Council website. The Council would also be making its own response.
· There were three types of changes, recently introduced, proposals for the current system and radical reform.
· The proposed changes to the current system were subject to legal challenge. They had been bought in as a result of the pandemic to stimulate the regeneration of town centres and encourage house building through amending general permitted development rights.
· The new general permitted development rights would give new rights to demolish free standing buildings to rebuild as homes and a right to extend upwards to create additional stories on existing buildings.
· These would be major changes and would change the look and feel of Enfield. The permitted development rights would apply in most places, but not conservation areas.
· The changes in use classes could be positive in that they would provide greater flexibility for business, help town centres evolve to meet new needs but they could also result in a loss of office and retail space, impact on the availability of strategic industrial land and place greater burdens on licensing authorities.
· The day before the meeting, new requirements had been bought in setting new space standards for residential buildings.
· It was proposed that they would make changes to the standard method for calculating the number of houses needed in an area. This would mean that the current cap would be lifted and more first homes but less affordable homes would be built. It could increase the number of extra homes for Enfield from 1,400 in the current draft local plan to 2,000 a year. This was a substantial increase.
· First homes were not necessarily affordable. They would mainly benefit wealthier households.
· The proposal to lift the threshold on schemes which required a proportion of affordable housing, would result in less affordable housing.
· Radical changes to the planning system were set out in the Planning White Paper, recently published by the Government. The paper contained a set of high level ideas to stimulate debate and responses. The stated aim was to simplify planning and speed up the plan making process. Plans would become more visual and use the latest digital technology.
· There were proposals to divide all areas into three zones: growth areas, renewal areas and protected areas.
· The Government hoped to involve more people at the plan making stage but not at the level of individual applications.
· They wanted to be able to agree new local plans in 2.5 years, rather than the current 5 or more.
· There was a lot of focus on improving design and having national design standards.
· If enacted, these proposals would have an extensive impact on Enfield. It was difficult to see how they would work well in urban environments.
· There was an implied reduction in the amount of member involvement in the planning process.
· There was a lot of focus on housing, but not much on other areas and very little about biodiversity.
· The Government have said that they want to hear people’s views so members were encouraged to feed their responses into the consultation.
2. Questions and Comments
2.1 The new space requirements were for a minimum of 37 square metres of floor space per property. These standards would still mean very small housing units were allowed but were welcomed as a step in the right direction. Converting office buildings to housing would still be subject to regulations but they would not require planning permission.
2.2 The radical proposals would result in taking powers to make decisions on local applications from local planning committees and could dent local democratic processes.
2.3 Councils were currently in the process of putting together their own local plans based on the Mayor’s London Plan, but these new proposals would seem to change the rules. It was unclear how Councils should proceed. There were many constraints on land, so it was difficult to see where the extra new houses could be accommodated.
2.4 The changes could make things more confusing and less efficient.
2.5 Changes to the current system were temporary for 18 months, but these could easily be extended.
2.6 Now, most housing schemes require affordable housing. These proposals would raise the threshold so that the requirement would only apply to larger schemes. Most schemes in Enfield were small scale, so would not have needed to provide affordable housing.
2.7 The changes to affordable housing requirements went against current Government policy.
2.8 First homes in London would not be affordable.
2.9 The Government has said that it intends to move quickly on these reforms and a draft on the changes to the current system could be ready by Christmas.
2.10 Deciding which zone areas would fall into would be decided through the plan making process. They would seek to increase public engagement in this, envisaging a three-stage collaborative process with local workshops. It was not yet clear how this would be done but the Council was looking at international case studies and digital requirements. There would be a need for increased resources to manage the processes.
2.11 In response to the question as to how the local authority would get the everyday public to engage, this would require additional funding. Planning budgets had been shrinking and were very dependent on planning fees. The digital tools required do not currently exist.
Councillor Chibah thanked Sarah Cary for her comprehensive and informative presentation and encouraged people to respond to the consultation. There were deep concerns about the implications for our existing democratic structures.