Civic groups have issued an urgent warning to MK residents that sweeping government plans to “reform” England’s planning system would have devastating consequences for Milton Keynes – Britain’s biggest and most successful New Town.
In a bid to speed up house-building the government White Paper says that all land will be classified into just three zones: areas for growth, renewal or protection. Anyone living in a growth or renewal zone, which would include most of MK, would be powerless prevent the loss of local parks, landscaped grid roads, transport corridors or wildlife refuges since, under new rules, outline planning permission will be guaranteed.
“This is development by government diktat,” says Linda Inoki, chair of Xplain. “It means that our innovative city of trees could be choked by infill development.”
What’s more, local democracy will be cut to the bone because, after MK Council hastily draws up new zoning maps and design codes, residents will have no further say. Dialogue with developers, Neighbourhood Plans, planning committee meetings and even protests will be things of the past, as all this involvement will be swept aside by centralised rules.
Local groups are not the only ones raising the alarm. The Town and Country Planning Association insists that “ripping up the planning system will not deliver the homes we need” while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says that the overall thrust of the White Paper is “more about speeding up major planning decisions in favour of short-term business interests” rather than putting sustainability at the heart of planning reform.
Please help us save MK by sending your own message to the government and to your local MP (Iain Stewart for MK South firstname.lastname@example.org or Ben Everitt for MK North email@example.com) by 29th October.
Here is a suggested letter, but please use your own thoughts and words if possible. Submit via www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tearing up the current planning system as proposed in the current White Paper will not deliver the affordable homes we need, and will not deliver sustainable, quality development which is crucial for people, the planet and wildlife. Please make the following changes to the White Paper:
- Localism needs to be retained, building on the work of Neighbourhood Planning which has been so successful in Milton Keynes. Don’t throw away all this progress which has found new sites for housing and produced locally sympathetic policies. Volunteers have spent huge amounts of time and effort creating Neighbourhood Plans, which have reduced planning battles and improved development standards.
- MK has a healthy supply of housing land and 16,000 new homes with planning approval. But we are waiting for developers to build all these homes. The problem with housing delivery is therefore not democratic involvement in the planning system but developers who keep land in ‘banks’ and control the housing supply to maximise demand and profits. Instead of giving builders automatic planning permission for infill development, as proposed, new policies should encourage them to build housing more quickly. Planning consents could be given deadlines before they expire and incomplete homes could be liable to Council Tax after a suitable time lapse.
- The duty of neighbouring boroughs to cooperate should be retained. Expansion areas just outside MK’s borders have a major impact on MK’s infrastructure, therefore cooperation, including sharing any funding from the infrastructure levy, is vital.