Exeter Conservative Councillors and Candidates Group have written to the Government to set out their views on the Planning for the Future White Paper.
Their comments are summarised below.
Throughout the planning process there needs to be certainty that the decisions reached are democratically accountable and transparent.
We support the objective of encouraging “sustainable, beautiful, safe and useful development", but we are not convinced that the current proposals will put local communities at the heart of the planning process in spite of the assertion that they will give us a ”greater say over what gets built” in our community.
We support the objective to create a “simpler” and “more predictable” planning system. However, it is not necessarily helpful to local communities to simply aim for speed of process. In a small city such as Exeter, there are different criteria that apply to different parts of the city and the discretionary role of a Planning Authority is vital in ensuring that the process meets the needs of each community. Any planning process should be democratic, open to challenge by way of Judicial Review and transparent.
Developers both large or small must be guided as to what is required in an area and should not be able to dictate what they want to build. They should be required to build what is needed at a standard and quality of design that enhances and not diminishes an area.
It is not considered that the proposals in the White Paper put communities at the heart of the process.
Planning is undoubtedly complex. If there is an opportunity to simplify, without reducing the ability of the local community to help contribute to the planning framework, comment upon individual planning applications, whether large or small, and do their best to ensure that their local community reflects their ambitions for that community then it will be poor legislation and should not be contemplated. Any national framework should be light touch and available as a fall-back if local authorities do fall short in their obligations to their communities.
We repeat our key message with respect to the paper “Planning for the Future” that localism should be at the very heart of the planning process.
Leader, Conservative Group
Exeter City Council