By Jess Price
The Government is proposing a major overhaul of the planning system and this poses a huge threat to Sussex wildlife.
Development pressure in Sussex is already high and these proposals will see an even bigger drive for new housing, without taking into account our environmental limits. It’s vital that nature is at the heart of the planning system but the current proposals will fail wildlife, and people too.
Two major consultations are currently underway, and Sussex Wildlife Trust is responding to both – but we also need to encourage as many individual responses as possible.
We will be providing more information on both consultations and how to respond over the next few weeks, but wanted to bring them both to your attention as soon as possible.
Consultation 1: Changes to the Current Planning System
Deadline: Thursday 1 October 2020
This consultation supposedly sets out measures to ‘improve the effectiveness of the current planning system’. Of the four main proposals, we are most concerned about:
- Changes to the standard method for assessing local housing need, and
- Extending the current ‘Permission in Principle’ to major development
Housing numbers are decided by a complicated system whereby a national equation sets out how many homes a local planning authority needs to plan for. The Government’s proposed changes will generate astronomical new housing numbers for many districts:
- Arun will go from 1,368 per year to 2,063 (+51%)
- Horsham from 920 per year to 1715 (+86%)
- Rother from 736 per year to 1173 (+59%)
- Brighton & Hove from 924 per year to 1520 (+65%)
Even for districts where the number stays the same or goes down, there may be a requirement to take housing from neighbouring districts that can’t deliver their quota. For example, 80% of Rother is in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and therefore has different housing requirements. Whilst Wealden’s housing need is 1,199 under the new system, down from 1,225, they may well have to take on some of Rother’s under-delivery.
We believe the housing numbers proposed by the new system are unachievable for most local councils and developers, resulting in Local Plans failing to meet their housing targets. In this situation local planning authorities have much less say on the types and location of development that goes head. It plays into the hands of speculative developers and creates barriers to the creation of strategic networks for wildlife, where nature is fully integrated into new development.
These changes could be adopted very quickly and will impact the planning system for the next few years. For Sussex Wildlife Trust, it’s not just about the increasing numbers - it’s about a system that takes very little consideration of the environmental capacity needed to absorb and support this level of development. It’s about all the extra greenfield land taken, all the extra drinking water needed and all the new roads built to serve new homes in car-dependent locations.
Consultation 2: Planning for the Future
Deadline: Thursday 29 October 2020
This is the Government’s new vision for housing and basically rips up the current planning system and tries to start again. The Sussex Wildlife Trust is not against reform - we know the current system isn’t working for people or wildlife but we believe the system set out in this White Paper will make things much, much worse. You can read a more detailed response from our colleagues at The Wildlife Trusts.