IN the summer heat the government produced its consultation document, ‘Planning for the Future’ which aims to reform in their view, the current outdated, complex and ineffective planning system.

The Prime Minister describes it as a “Relic that needs reform, it is about cutting red tape not standards and will result in more homes being built where the need is the most”.

My initial reaction is that the proposed new measures will actually have the opposite results in our finely balanced local housing and employment markets. The tearing up of the rule book can only be the effect of maximum disruption to a system that actually works, particularly from a local democratic and community perspective.

A choice is being offered between centralised decision making and local/community based engagement to reach planning decisions. I understand the need to help the housing construction trade bounce back, but giving them most of the advantages in terms of gaining planning decisions is not a balanced and thought through approach.

93% of planning applications are approved locally first time and nationally over a million houses with planning are yet to be built as some landowners wait for land values to rise.

There is a promise of “beautiful homes” but no criteria as to how this will be judged. The proposals will cut democratic input by 50 per cent. At the moment there are two opportunities for accountability, scrutiny and oversight. One is the creation of the Local Plan (the stage we are at now) and then the final planning consent for an individual application. The proposal suggest that the democratic accountability and input will rest with the Local Plan stage. If you wish to object to a particular application, you need to feed into the democratic debate years before a specific development proposal is presented. At this stage there is no guarantee that fewer developments will happen as a result of the current government policy.

There are also plans to end the 106 developer contributions which fund the vital community infrastructure. Affordable housing may be even more difficult to deliver. The replacement by a new investment levy may not produce the same level of community investment.

So, this is a debate worth considering over the next three months. I recognise that planning is controversial and is subject to diverse perceptions but you don’t make any improvements by simply putting a thoughtless sledgehammer to the current arrangements. The implications for our own Local Plan are as yet, unclear but I am certain is that local checks and balances at all stages of planning should continue rather than be subject to one large Local Plan.

Which essentially will be used by government to deliver its own priorities without proper engagement and reference to those who live and work here.