PROPOSALS to radically reform the planning system have been labelled as an ‘attack on local democracy’.

Under the new plans, land designated for growth aims to ‘empower’ development – with new homes, hospitals, schools, shops and offices granted automatic planning permission.

But Warrington’s Liberal Democrats claim the Government’s proposals raise more problems than solutions.

Cllr Ryan Bate (LD – Grappenhall), the party’s planning spokesman on the council, says the Government should listen to the many voices raising concerns as they consult on an overhaul of the system.

“The proposals try to lay the blame for the housing crisis squarely at the feet of the planning system but over a million homes have been granted planning permission over the last decade and never built,” he said.

“If we had a well-resourced planning system focusing on sustainable development, quality place-making and genuine public participation, then Warrington would get the right homes in the right places with the right jobs and the right infrastructure. That includes genuinely affordable homes and social housing too.

“Planning professionals, environmentalists, conservationists and social housing bodies are all worried about these new proposals and I share their concerns.

“Handing more power to developers won’t give us the homes we need at the same time as reducing inequality and tackling climate change.

“These proposals are an attack on local democracy and will deny people the chance to have their say on local development.”

But Conservative Warrington South MP Andy Carter has defended the proposals.

He said: “I welcome the proposals put forward by the Prime Minister when he visited Stretton, I’ve also had the opportunity to speak to ministers to stress the importance of protecting our green belt while building new homes for the next generation in brownfield sites and town centres, which are ready for regeneration.

“We’ve seen the local plan-making process here in Warrington stretch for years and years without taking account of local opinion.

“That has to change, in Warrington we need to revisit the process given the changes we’ve seen at sites like Fiddlers Ferry, where there’s sufficient land to meet demand but the council have ignored it.

“Our proposals will also ensure developers deliver at least as much – if not more – affordable housing.

“We want to replace the current system of developers’ payments towards affordable housing.

“The current system is uncertain and opaque as the payments are subject to negotiation between councils and developers.

“This creates uncertainty for communities about how much affordable housing and infrastructure will accompany a development – which in turn means cost, delay and inconsistency.

“It also favours big developers that have the resources to negotiate successfully.

“Instead, we’ll introduce a simple national infrastructure levy. This new levy will raise more revenue than under the current system, ensuring at least as much affordable housing – any suggestion that it won’t is simply untrue.

“Our planning for the future consultation is open to your comments for the next 12 weeks. We encourage everyone to contribute their views to it.”