Planning reforms will ‘sideline’ community, says Barnet opposition as party leaders react

Barnet's party leaders, from left to right: Cllr Barry Rawlings (Lab, Coppetts), Cllr Gabriel Rozenb

Barnet's party leaders, from left to right: Cllr Barry Rawlings (Lab, Coppetts), Cllr Gabriel Rozenberg (Lib Dem, Garden Suburb) and Cllr Dan Thomas (Con, Finchley Church End). Pictures: UGC/Barnet Council - Credit: Archant

Barnet’s political leaders have responded to a proposed overhaul of the planning system that could see their oversight of applications diminish.

Proposals to streamline planning in the biggest shake-up of the system for decades were published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on August 6.

Under the proposals, planning applications based on pre-approved ‘design codes’ in areas earmarked for growth would be given automatic outline permission. Areas designated for ‘renewal’ would see a presumption in favour of some developments.

While residents would have a say in the development of design codes and the location of ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ and ‘protection’ areas, the changes could lead to less scrutiny of individual applications by councillors and members of the public.

Meanwhile, changes to permitted development rights will allow people to add two storeys to existing post-war homes without full planning permission.

They will also allow developers to knock down unused buildings and replace them with housing without full permission.

Labour leader Cllr Barry Rawlings (Coppetts) branded the proposed changes a “Tory development charter”, claiming the borough already has the second-highest housing target in England following a 75 per cent increase imposed by the Conservative government.

Most Read

Cllr Rawlings said: “These new plans will drive a coach and horses through local accountability and sideline our community without providing the genuinely affordable housing and funding for infrastructure Barnet so badly needs.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Gabriel Rozenberg (Garden Suburb) said he was “deeply concerned” about the impact the proposals will have on “our suburban way of life”.

Cllr Rozenberg said: “While many of the details are vague, they add up to an attack on the planning system and are a recipe for potentially unsafe and ugly housing.

Cllr Rozenberg said the local Conservatives should “come off the fence and fight for the preservation of crucial planning powers that keep our suburbs strong” – or voters “will not forgive them”.

Conservative leader Cllr Dan Thomas said: “I welcome proposals to streamline the planning process, which in many cases is needlessly cumbersome.

“I have some concerns, and I’m in the process of understanding the detail and discussing with local MPs and government.”