City councillor calls new government plans to double new housing in Coventry every year "unwanted and unnecessary" - The Coventry Observer

8th Aug, 2022

City councillor calls new government plans to double new housing in Coventry every year "unwanted and unnecessary"

Editorial Correspondent 30th Sep, 2020 Updated: 30th Sep, 2020

A CITY councillor has slammed new Government planning proposals to double the number of homes Coventry must build in a year from 1,230 to 2,676 .

Last month the Government’s White paper ‘Planning for the Future’ set out sweeping planning reforms to the way applications are decided and how development land is allocated. If adopted, the new rules could see the number of houses built annually in Coventry every year increase by 117%.

The proposed changes would also reduce the number of affordable housing available and make it harder for residents to object to developments, says Coun David Welsh, cabinet member for housing and communities.

Commenting on the white paper and another consultation to set new housing targets for local areas, the Labour councillor for St Michael’s ward said: “Some people have criticised the figures in our existing Local Plan for building too many houses using government population projections, yet the same government is now proposing something that would more than double our yearly figure.

“Our policy over the years has been to build on brownfield sites first and the reality is that there are not that many of them left. If this new figure is forced upon us, it means our options are to look for denser housing developments, or look to release additional greenbelt –options we do not want to do.

“On top of all this, the White paper affects our planning controls, giving more power to developers and less of a say to residents in what happens in their own communities.

“In Coventry, we have a strong Local Plan in place – that was consulted extensively upon – which gives our Council the ability to make sure new housing developments are right for our city and the people who live here.

“These proposed new changes are unwanted and unnecessary.”

It would also mean less social rented accommodation available and local house prices at best on the market at just under £150,000 which Coun Welsh says is out of reach for many people in Coventry.

The White Paper could see planning applications based on pre-approved ‘design codes’ which would get an automatic green light in specific ‘zones’ – eliminating a whole stage of local oversight. It would see land across England divided into three categories – for growth, renewal or protection – taking away the need for consultation with the public which currently takes place on a proposal-by-proposal basis.

On land designated for ‘growth’ new homes, hospitals and schools will be allowed automatically to empower development, while areas of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt will come under the protection category. While the Town and Country Planning Association recognises change is definitely needed but is concerned the new proposals are “less democratic with less opportunities for communities to participate” and the new system “won’t be fit to deal with the climate crisis or the delivery of genuinely affordable homes”. The president of the RIBA Alan Jones says they will be creating the “the next generation of slum housing” and Labour MPs  described Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick’s reforms to the planning process a ‘developers’ charter’.

The Coventry local plan was adopted in December 2017 after a long period of community engagement that included cooperation with neighbouring local authorities. It is constantly monitored to see if reviews are needed and to make sure plans remain up to date and can be viewed on the Council website at coventry.gov.uk/localplan

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