Planning shake-up signals end of ‘garden grabbing’ and targets

CHANGES Communities Minister Greg Clark makes a statement regarding the new planning rules in the House of Commons.
CHANGES Communities Minister Greg Clark makes a statement regarding the new planning rules in the House of Commons.
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GARDEN grabbing and government housing targets are set to become a thing of the past as a major planning shake-up comes into force.

Hampshire’s political leaders welcomed the reforms announced by planning minister Greg Clark.

The reforms slim down more than 1,000 pages of policy on planning rules into a 50-page national planning policy framework – aimed at boosting economic growth while protecting the environment.

As reported, the reforms – which centre on a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ – have been opposed by green groups amid fears they would lead to swathes of countryside being lost.

But the Campaign to Protect Rural England yesterday gave a cautious welcome to the reforms.

Mr Clark, in his speech to the Commons yesterday, recognised the intrinsic value of the ordinary countryside ‘whether specifically designated or not’.

He declared that policies protecting greenbelt could not be overridden by the presumption to develop.

And he described back gardens as ‘precious urban oases’ that councils should be allowed to protect.

The changes mean the South East Plan – created by the Labour government to ensure 80,000 homes were built in south Hampshire by 2026 – is no more.

Councils will now be in the driving seat of development through their Local Plans.

Local Plans have now been formally adopted by councils including Havant, Gosport, Fareham and Portsmouth, and are on the way to being adopted by East Hampshire and Winchester Councils.

Many feared councils without an adopted Local Plan would be open to a ‘free-for-all’ from developers, but the government has now recognised emerging Local Plans as well as those adopted.

Fareham leader Sean Woodward, who leads the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire, said: ‘In Push we have thousands of families on the housing waiting lists.

‘We need to build our way out of that problem, but in the right way at the right location.’

He said leaders of Push, a collaboration of nine councils, will meet in June with the aim of reducing the 80,000 housing target and extending the time frame to 2031.

He added: ‘We will be looking at losing several thousand. It will be nearer 70,000.’

Ray Cobbett, from Hampshire Friends of the Earth, said the question remained over the definition of ‘sustainable’.

He said: ‘We need to wait and see how this is going to be interpreted.’