HOUSING targets, diminished community involvement and overcentralisation are just some of the concerns raised by the council in its response to proposed government planning reforms.

Buckinghamshire Council has published its draft response to the government’s “Planning for the Future” White Paper.

Councillors will convene to discuss the document during a Cabinet meeting, on Tuesday, October 13.

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The white paper outlines reforms to “streamline and modernise the planning process”, while ensuring “more land is available for development where it is needed,” according to a government website.

However, the scheme has come under fire from critics who say it could lead to “bad-quality housing” and diminished local influence.

The paper says the changes are necessary to address the system’s complexity, to reduce the time taken to approve the Local Plan, and to increase homebuilding.

However, the council says it seeks to ‘overcentralise… decision making to the detriment of local involvement… and future generations’.

And while it agrees the planning system needs “improvement”, the government’s strategy is “at the expense of local democratic accountability”.

It fears local policy issues will be “side-lined” in favour of “top-down control” and will not be made simpler by “streamlining” the process.

The council also fears a condensed Local Plan process will exclude the public who will only discover what has been permitted “when, unfortunately, their involvement will be too late”.

“It is difficult to square notions of transparency and engagement with the proposed quicker speed of local plan making and the reduced facility for public engagement in the process,” it says.

It fears a lack of community influence resulting in “legal action”, with consequent delays.

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It calls the imposition of set housing targets a “great concern”, adding it has “grave” fears about government “methodology”.

“At the draft stage, elected members supported by their officers must be able to locally and democratically reach agreement on any cross-boundary housing issues,” it says.

It adds the government’s target for achieving 300,000 homes each year “is not supported by its own analysis so it should not constrain itself to such falsehood”.

It calls for ‘support and necessary funding’ in building affordable housing, arguing “just building more homes will not deliver affordability”, and borrowing to fund such projects means taxpayers are “effectively subsidising loans to developers and landowners”.

The council urges upfront payment by developers of the Infrastructure Levy, opposing the government’s plan to delay payment. “The risk cannot be with local authorities,” it says.

Valued landscapes and protected areas should also be safeguarded “where relevant”.

The council does support however greater penalties for those that breach planning laws welcoming changes to fines, and the government’s emphasis on ‘high quality design and the value of neighbourhood plans’.

The government consultation closes on October 29.

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