Published: Thursday, 5th November 2015
The Government’s Housing and Planning bill faced heavy opposition in Parliament this week as the legislation comfortably negotiated its second reading stage in the Commons.
The bill is the first to be dealt with under the new rules which mean only English and Welsh MPs can vote on the bill as its measures don’t apply in Scotland.
Labour shadow communities secretary John Healey accused ministers of turning their back on localism. He argued the Conservatives were in such a panic about house-building performance they had drafted a bill which gave them “wide-ranging powers to impose new house building and override local community concerns and local plans.
“With a total of 32 new housing and planning powers for the centre, this legislation signals the end of localism.”
During nearly seven hours of debate in the Commons on Monday, MPs traded statistics about the impact of the bill’s provisions on social housing. Labour and Lib-Dem MPs predicted a “fire sale” of affordable homes.
And they lined up to question who would be able to afford the Government’s new “starter homes” quoting statistics produced by Shelter that a family living on the Chancellor’s new minimum wage of nine pounds an hour in 2020 would not be able to afford a starter home in 98 per cent of the country.
London MP Helen Hayes, a former planner, complained: “This Bill lacks any vision for planning, regarding it as simply a constraint to development.
“Through a multitude of different measures, including “in-principle” planning consent, the removal of the need for section 106 contributions from starter home developments and the provision for Secretary of State call-in of planning decisions, this bill will take power away from our local communities, while also removing vital checks on the quality and sustainability of development.”
Former Conservative housing minister Mark Prisk voiced concern over planning department staffing. “In some authorities, the system is grinding to a halt because of the lack of planning officers able either to produce a local plan or to drive forward negotiations with experienced developers.”
Communities Secretary Greg Clark insisted the Government’s proposals would make sure that the planning system was “speedier and more accommodating of the need for more homes, especially on brownfield sites”.
He told MPs: “We have built 260,000 affordable homes, nearly a third of them in London, and in the next five years we will build 275,000 more, the most for 20 years.”