Cotswold District Council member criticises Government plans for planning shake-up

W Cirencester in the Summer2

A Cotswold District Council Cabinet member has criticised Government plans for another major shake-up of the planning system.

The Government wants to further relax rules on converting commercial properties to housing in town centres and traditional employment sites. It would mean new homes as well as conversions could be built on these sites without planning permission.

However, Cllr Rachel Coxcoon, Cabinet Member for Planning Policy, Climate Change and Energy, says the proposals threaten the future of town centres and would lead to unsuitable and poor quality housing that is ill equipped to respond to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

The Council has responded outlining its objections on various levels. It says the proposals would mean:

  •     Unplanned changes to town centres with housing in inappropriate locations
  •       The ability to regenerate and repurpose town centres being affected
  •       Existing businesses being forced out by landlords in favour of higher yields from residential development which could have a major impact on smaller town and village centres
  •       The provision of poor quality, unregulated homes built with no regard to their environmental impact and without suitable local infrastructure
  •       No guarantee on whether the housing would be affordable

The objections follow the Council’s opposition to Government proposals for the planning system outlined in a white paper last October. These said consultation on planning applications would be removed and would instead be confined to vastly slimmed down Local Plans. Many planning policies used to determine planning applications would be centralised with fears this would erode the locally accountable democratic process.

Cllr Coxcoon said: “I strongly object to these proposals which could undermine the integrity of our key town centres, as well as allowing developers to make changes without permission resulting in new homes unfit for more extreme and unpredictable weather events in future.

“We could also see a wholesale loss of shops/cafes/restaurants as developers swoop in to convert them to substandard homes that will not need planning permission.

“This comes off the back of the Government’s much criticised Planning for the Future white paper, which itself proposes to tear up much of the existing planning system and has met with fierce resistance including from this Council.

“We believe planning decisions should be made at a local level. Right now we are committed to supporting our high streets and local businesses and look forward to them reopening from the current lockdown and recovering strongly.”