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Council delay vote on opposing government’s planning reforms despite ‘slum housing’ fears

PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:17 22 September 2020

Historic reforms of the planning system have been slated as contentious, pitiful and a bad day for local democracy. Pictured, prime minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA Images

Historic reforms of the planning system have been slated as contentious, pitiful and a bad day for local democracy. Pictured, prime minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

A Norfolk council has delayed a vote on calls for it to oppose government proposals to transform the planning system.

Chris Brown, Liberal Democrat councillor, brought the motion to the full council meeting. Picture: Liberal Democrats.Chris Brown, Liberal Democrat councillor, brought the motion to the full council meeting. Picture: Liberal Democrats.

South Norfolk councillors did not vote on a motion which cited concerns over draft new planning laws published last month at a meeting last night (Monday, September 21).

The government unveiled the planning white paper in August and the proposed changes, if agreed, would - in practice - strip away an entire layer of scrutiny from the development process - with applications automatically green-lit in pre-approved areas - and render public objections and committee decisions obsolete.

Chris Brown, Liberal Democrat councillor, brought a motion to the full council meeting held on Monday, September 21, which called on the council to oppose the proposed changes.

READ MORE: Government’s housing reforms blasted for giving public less say over development

The Ditchingham and Earsham councillor’s motion warned draft new regulations sought to “reduce or remove the right of residents to object to applications near them”, as well granting automatic rights for development and cut the levels of affordable housing schemes.

Mr Brown said an architectural body had called plans “shameful” and said they would do “almost nothing to guarantee delivery of affordable, well-designed and sustainable homes”.

“The Royal Institute of British Architects also said that proposals could lead to the next generation of slum housing,” he added.

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“Shelter has concerns about the delivery of social housing without Section 106, stating “it makes no sense to remove this route to genuinely affordable homes without a guaranteed alternative.”

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He called on the council to take part in the consultation and to make representations against the government’s proposals, and lobby local MPs to oppose the plans.

However, the council did not take a vote on the motion, and agreed its response to the plans should be decided via a cabinet meeting later this month.

Conservative councillor Lisa Neal said the matter had been referred to cabinet, which would meet on Monday, September 28.

She said: “I therefore believe that this motion would be premature to approve.”

And council leader John Fuller added: “I don’t mean to stifle debate but I don’t think this is the forum to have a discussion on it.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Vivienne Clifford-Jackson asked how members could be involved.

Councillors were told to submit their concerns ahead of cabinet or to attend the meeting.

READ MORE: ‘Disaster for Norfolk’ - plea for region to escape virus clampdown


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