What are promised as “much more sensible” housing targets have been welcomed by leaders at Conservative-led Wealden District Council.
The Government has pledged, in Parliament, reforms to the planning system and will allow communities to set more realistic house-building limits rather than top-down imposed numbers.
“At Wealden we have continuously lobbying Government, over the last few years, to reduce its nationally set housing targets”, said Conservative council leader Ann Newton (pictured). “What the Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities confirmed in Parliament this week is hugely welcomed. “We heard confirmation that the Government is listening to the council’s call and is now looking to adjust housing targets and remove the five-year housing land supply requirements.
“The proposals would also see the distict council given greater powers to deter unjustified, speculative applications during the production of its Local Plan”, added Cllr Newton who holds the Planning Portfolio at Wealden.
The Government consultation on the proposed changes is due to be published before the end of the year. “Of course, we are keen to see the finer detail of the proposals and engage fully with the consultation”, said Cllr Newton.
Under the proposals, housing targets set for local authorities will remain but will be a starting point instead, with new flexibilities to reflect local circumstances. These will include national parks, heritage restrictions, and areas of high flood-risk.
Local planning authorities, such as Wealden, will be able to tackle slow build-out by developers; and there could be new financial penalties for companies failing to deliver housing despite having planning approval and give councils power to refuse further permissions across their areas.
Work has considerably progressed on Wealden District Council’s Draft Local Plan, which will shape the district’s places, plan and manage growth and infrastructure, and guide development in the district in future years.
“The council needs to ensure that its emerging Local Plan fully considers these important forthcoming changes and protects the Wealden district”, said Cllr Newton.
Following the publication of the government consultation, the council is planning to bring an updated timetable for its Local Plan to the Local Plan Sub Committee in the new year.
“The Local Plan is an important document and we want to progress it as quickly as possible to provide certainty to our communities, partners and developers on the future planning strategy for the district.
“However, following our successful lobbying efforts we will be working over the coming months to build these changes into our Draft Local Plan, with the central aim of protecting the natural beauty and character of our district and meeting our climate change commitments,” Cllr Newton added.