Three-quarters of councillors say planning system is skewed in favour of developers

The government's expected white paper should facilitate local democracy

Image: Albert Bridge

Local communities are not getting a say in planning decisions because the system is weighted in favour of developers, a new survey suggests.

Ahead of the government’s white paper on housing, the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) and the National Trust asked 1,200 English ward councillors for there views on the planning system in their areas.

The key findings show significant dissatisfaction with the way planning decisions are made, and the impacts they have on local communities.

  • 72 per cent of councillors said that the system is too weighted in favour of developers at the expense of local communities
  • Half of councillors say sites that are not in line with the local plan are being approved for new housing
  • Half of councillors believe planning departments are not adequately resourced
  • 58 per cent of councillors with Green Belt in their area think that their council will allocate Green Belt land for housing in the next five years

‘The planning system is one of the fundamental pillars of local democracy, allowing communities to help shape the physical structure of the places they live,’ commented Jonathan Carr-West of the LGiU. He warned that many councillors — the most important link between communities and the system — ‘feel this democratic tool is being undermined.’

The LGiU and National Trust expressed concern that the housing white paper, expected later this month, could fail to take account of greet belts, areas of outstanding natural beauty and other local concerns.

They call on the government to facilitate local democracy through its plans, by ensuring councils and local planning authorities get their say in planning decisions.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

One Response to “Three-quarters of councillors say planning system is skewed in favour of developers”

  1. Craig Mackay

    The developers have deep pockets and substantial resources. Their cases are presented by the best barristers. They claim that planning regulations are stifling building but in fact there is outstanding planning permission for about two years worth of building. The planning authorities by contrast are poor and cannot afford to scrutinise the plans of the developers adequately. Recently in my own area an approved substantial plan for residential development with 40% affordable was changed because the developers said they couldn’t get it to work at that percentage. The planners asked for a financial breakdown to justify that. This was denied on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. They got it reduced to 7% anyway and, because the development was close to Cambridge, shortly after held sales campaigns in Shanghai and Beijing.

    This way it is easy to run rings round local authorities. Until the costs of submitting large planning applications are increased so that local authorities can afford the expertise they need this will continue. What is needed is a radically new approach to the provision of housing where current developers are moved to one side to continue doing what they best prefer, building expensive houses for the few and ignoring affordable accommodation for the many. If you’re interested there is a lot more at:

Leave a Reply