Published Wednesday, 30 September 2020
A leading city councillor has criticised Government plans that would more than double the number of homes the city must build every year.
The proposed changes as part of two separate consultations, would also reduce the number of affordable housing available and make it harder for residents to influence and object to developments.
That’s the view of Cllr David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, commenting on a published White Paper called ‘Planning for the Future (of housing)’ and a parallel consultation to set new housing targets for local areas.
If adopted, the new rules would see the number of houses the Government says must be built in Coventry every year increase from 1,230 to 2,676 – a rise of 117%.
Being forced to meet such a large increase will put extra pressure on the greenbelt and open spaces with fewer brownfield sites still available.
The proposals would also see the bar raised considerably before the need to provide affordable housing. No provision would be needed if a housing development is less than 40 or 50 houses.
It would also mean less social rented accommodation available and local house prices at best on the market at just under £150,000 which is out of reach for many people in Coventry.
Meanwhile, the White Paper could see planning applications based on pre-approved ‘design codes’ which would get an automatic green light in specific ‘zones’ – eliminating a whole stage of local oversight.
It would see land across England divided into three categories – for growth, renewal or protection – taking away the need for consultation with the public which currently takes place on a proposal-by-proposal basis.
Cllr Welsh said: “Some people have criticised the figures in our existing Local Plan for building too many houses using government population projections, yet the same government is now proposing something that would more than double our yearly figure.
“Our policy over the years has been to build on brownfield sites first and the reality is that there are not that many of them left. If this new figure is forced upon us, it means our options are to look for denser housing developments, or look to release additional greenbelt –options we do not want to do.”
Cllr Welsh continued: “On top of all this, the White paper affects our planning controls, giving more power to developers and less of a say to residents in what happens in their own communities.
“In Coventry, we have a strong Local Plan in place – that was consulted extensively upon – which gives our Council the ability to make sure new housing developments are right for our city and the people who live here.
“These proposed new changes are unwanted and unnecessary.”
The Coventry local plan was adopted in December 2017 after a long period of community engagement that included cooperation with neighbouring local authorities.
It is constantly monitored to see if reviews are needed and to make sure plans remain up to date and can be viewed on the Council website.