MPs back changes to planning guidance

MPs Nick Gibb and Nick Herbert on either side of Helen Newman and Grant Shapps
MPs Nick Gibb and Nick Herbert on either side of Helen Newman and Grant Shapps

MPs from the Gazette’s patch have welcomed changes to the planning system that discourage development on sites at risk of flooding or which lack sufficient infrastructure.

A raft of amendments to the draft planning practice guidance were unveiled by planning minister Nick Boles last Thursday.

Among other things, the guidance warns councils to consider ‘strict tests’ before allowing development on flood-risk sites.

It also says local plans need to ‘pass the test of soundness’, where authorities have not been able to identify land for growth in years 11 to 15 of the plan. Arun District Council approved a controversial housebuilding target of 580 homes a year until 2029 back in January.

But further consultation is being sought on where the homes should go.

Responding to the statement, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb said: “The changes the Government has just announced are very welcome. “It is important to ensure we are not building houses on areas of land that are at risk of flooding.

“The last few weeks should be a wake-up call to developers not to build on green field land that has historically flooded during periods of heavy and prolonged rainfall.”

The Government’s guidance, which informs housing decisions made by local authorities, also warns of the need to ensure infrastructure is provided to support new development and that infrastructure constraints are considered when assessing the suitability of sites.

Like Nick Gibb, Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has been critical of unsustainable development.

He welcomed the Government’s announcement, adding: “These are welcome changes which show that ministers have listened to local concerns about planning reforms. I, and other MPs, have argued strongly about the problem of inadequate infrastructure to support development, and as recent flooding shows, these issues cannot be ignored.

“A focus on redeveloping brownfield sites, a more sensible approach on the ‘duty to co-operate’ between councils, and giving proper weight to emerging local plans so that they’re not undermined by speculative development should all help to achieve a better balance between providing housing and protecting the countryside.”