The High Peak Local Plan, adopted in April this year, commits the borough council to pursue sustainable housing policies that provide for new building of affordable housing, while respecting the landscape and the natural habitats of this beautiful region. But, faced with a shrinking budgets and weak planning legislation, does our borough council have the means to stop unsustainable plans from going forward?
There`s really no argument against the perception that more housing is required within the UK, but there are plenty of arguments against the method of planning that the current government has imposed on councils and the people they should represent. The National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) is not overtly a bad process. It allows for adoption of a local plan and for people to organise to submit neighbourhood plans. But despite the fact that plans have been approved and accepted by government inspectors, the council are often left without any real power to uphold the plans when planning applications that have been refused go to appeal.
Large building and speculative interests have fortunes at their disposal and so can wreck the democratic process by employing expensive legal representatives against which most councils cannot respond. Why? Because the current Tory government has more or less bankrupt most authorities and how can you justify expensive legal costs when you have schools and adult care to consider? No contest really and so our sympathy must be with councils who do try to protect their environment against unsustainable and inappropriate developments.
Aside from the appeals issue, the NPPF, just doesn’t work very well to deliver the housing we do need. The problem is, there’s no obligation on developers to actually build the houses once the permission is obtained. Foot-dragging keeps the supply of houses well below demand, raising the price developers can obtain per unit built.
It’s a recognised problem that delivery of built houses is well short of what is planned for and we can now look forward to the latest government response to this – the Housing Delivery Test – yet another example of attempting to solve the wrong problem. The Housing Delivery Test will force councils who do not meet house building targets to release more land for development – which of course is more likely to be on greenfield sites than the original land allocated for building. So, instead of being penalised, foot-dragging developers are rewarded by being given access to land not previously available for building! Does anyone really believe that this is not deliberate?
Take a look at this blog post on the issue by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
So what can we do? Easy answer in my view:
- Join the Green Party, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Friends of the Peak.
- Get the facts about so-called sustainable development
- Start writing to your MP and the Communities Secretary, Greg Clark. Write in your own words and spread the word – it is the only weapon we have against what is essentially the destruction of the democratic process.
Currently in my part of the world, Burbage, Buxton there are two contentious planning applications (HPK/2015/0573 & HPK/2016/0234) and another in the pipeline. None of these fit the criteria for ‘sustainable development’ and all three are on greenfield sites which in all cases form part of the boundary that should exist between development and the National Park.
Meanwhile large areas at Harpur Hill and opposite Staden Lane plus ‘brownfield’ sites in Buxton remain empty and up for sale despite planning permission having been granted. It is not too late to let the ‘powers that be’ know what you feel about this situation and if you would like to object to applications as noted above the application references are as above. You can submit comments and objects to planning applications on the High Peak Borough Council website.