Property industry welcomes pledge to put growth at heart of planning system

19 Jan 2011

Policy area: Planning

Developers will be given the green light to build "whatever, wherever and whenever" they want if communities fail to put growth at the centre of their local plans, a senior government figure announced today.

Speaking at an industry seminar John Howell MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Greg Clark as Minister of State for Decentralisation, said the coalition's presumption in favour of sustainable development would be a "golden thread" running through the new planning system.

Howell said councils that failed to plan for new development would be "assumed to have a completely permissive planning system".

A developer could then build "what they like, where they like and when they like" provided they met new national planning guidance being worked up in tandem with the localism bill.

"I think that is an extremely good incentive for councils," he said: "When we have got waiting lists for housing and a community that doesn't want to build anything - that does not meet the sustainability test."

Welcoming the remarks, Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “The property industry’s greatest fear was that the localism agenda would lead to greater nimbyism.

“John’s comments today have gone some way to easing these concerns with a clear emphasis on localism being used as a vehicle to drive growth and development rather than encouraging communities to opt out, effectively putting a leash on economic growth.”

The ‘Localism Bill: Community Empowerment or Nimby’s Charter?’ seminar organised by the British Property Federation also heard from Sue Willcox, head of town planning at Sainsbury’s and chair of the BPF Planning Committee, who commented: “Sustainable communities are mixed communities, both people who live and work there” whilst adding she thought it was important that “there must be a test of nimbyism so you get balanced neighbourhoods”.

Jim Fennell, managing director of Nathanial Lichfield and Partners, added: "This move from big government to big society should begin with lifting the burden from developers and empowering communities to do things their way" and suggested that developers should look "for councils and neighbourhoods that are open for business".