What do councillors really think about Planning for the Future?

Councils across the North West are considering their responses to the Government’s proposed reforms to the planning system, with some describing the Planning for the Future White Paper as “fundamentally undemocratic” as reported by Place North West here.

To gauge the response to the proposed reforms, BECG commissioned Savanta ComRes to survey 315 English Councillors, 52% of whom sit on planning committees, with the rest serving on environment, housing and transport committees.  This is what they said:

Will the proposed reforms make planning more of less democratic?

78% of all councillors believe the reforms will make the planning process less democratic with only 4% saying the reforms will add more democracy.  This includes 90% of Labour councillors and 61% of Conservative councillors who believe the reforms are less democratic.

Should there be a review of the Green Belt?

Just over half of all councillors (52%) think that there should be a review of the Green Belt in England.  Labour councillors (64%) are more likely to believe that there should be a review than Conservative councillors (only 47%).  However, most councillors would use a review to add more land into the Green Belt, with only 39% using a review to release land for development.

When should the public be consulted?

64% of councillors say that the majority of public consultation should take place in each individual planning application, with only 33% believing that the focus of public consultation should be at Local Plan stage.

Effectiveness of Digital Consultations

There is growing acceptance amongst councillors that virtual engagement has an important role to place when engaging the public about development.  40% of councillors now believe that face-to-face and virtual consultations are equally effective in engaging the public’s view, with this rising to 54% amongst recently elected councillors.

With growing criticism from across the region about the impact of changes proposed in the Planning White Paper on housing delivery across the North, this research highlights the huge challenges facing the Government’s planning reforms, with significant scepticism amongst Conservative councillors, many of whom might be nervous about their own futures should proposals to scrap district councils be announced later this year.

Download the full research paper here

This article first appeared on Place North West’s website. You can view it here.