Monday, 6 June 2016

Housing demand puts planning system under pressure

With housing demand outstripping supply it is easy to understand why every landowner would be interested in getting permission for residential property, but it’s putting our planning system under immense strain.

The scale of the job facing planning officers is evident in the work undertaken by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s team after it published its Call for Sites Interim Assessment, as part of the development of its Local Plan.

More than 262 potential sites were originally submitted by landowners, with each one having to be analysed and assessed in terms of their suitability, availability and achievability for housing or employment.

The planners also had to take into account whether they were constrained by proximity to a Special Area of Conservation; Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Flood Zone 3; ancient monuments; ancient woodlands or areas, parks and woodland covered by Tree Preservation Orders.

The next challenge for the planners will be when the council goes out to consultation in autumn 2016.

There will inevitably be communities and environmental groups opposing development pitched head-to-head with the landowners and development community, with officers and councillors finding themselves in the crossfire.

We need to move away from the blame game. The planners are faced with  landowners and developers looking to bring forward sites; often without a compliant NPPF Local Plan. Local politicians face public opposition to development, and everybody gets caught in the media spotlight, with the result that nothing gets done. The situation is made worse by the fact many local authorities are struggling to attract and retain planning officers.

On a positive note it’s good to hear the county’s planning officers have been working with Kent Developers Group and Locate in Kent to develop a series of planning protocols as part of a concerted effort to make life easier for everybody here in Kent.

It should make an interesting read – and I’m sure will be the subject of a future Kentcentric post.

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