Portsmouth planners must raise their game | Penny Mordaunt
Congratulations are in order this week, and not just for the amazing Team GB.
The Milton Neighbourhood Forum has submitted its plan to Portsmouth City Council. This has been a huge undertaking for them, and it is a quality piece of work.
Years ago – I’m sure it feels like a lifetime to them – I asked Planning Aid and officials from the Department for Local Government (now Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)), to provide a training session at Stamshaw Community Centre to help people put in place these plans.
That was the start of it and the community has worked extremely hard to create the first plan of its kind in the city. We must make sure it is fully utilised.
Our local planning department has had its own challenges. The lockdown and the nitrates issues that preceded it have presented challenges.
There are regular complaints and pleas for help that come into my office about backlogs and delays to processing applications. I frequently raise this with the council.
We have been without a local plan resulting in the city council’s position of refusing developments being weakened.
It is vital we ensure planning is given proper support and it has all the skills needed to make use of new initiatives, such as the design guide and also documents like Milton’s neighbourhood plan.
There are some big opportunities in the next few months – a new plan for the city, and hopefully funds from the Levelling Up fund bids. However, we must also make the case to MHCLG that we need the flexibility to design and build what will work for us here.
We want new homes but recent weeks have shown some developments have led to flooding nearby. We need to allow innovation to rethink HMOs and a housing offer that works and provides what people need without impossible pressures on utilities and parking spaces.
We need our planners to demand more in terms of flexibility and beauty in what is being built. We need to incentivise the conversion of derelict buildings which are often an eyesore. We need to think about connectivity and green spaces. And we need to recognise that good development is just as much about quality of life and opportunity as it is about dwellings.
Done well in the next few years we can accelerate the regeneration of Portsmouth.
To be successful we must place local people at the heart of our city plan, and we must ensure MHCLG listens about what and where we build.
This week I have more meetings with that department and will be setting out how we can achieve our shared ambition of more homes built, but not at the price of floods, poor quality, and overwhelmed infrastructure.
Portsmouth planning needs to raise its game and MHCLG needs to listen.
A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.
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