All posts tagged 'planning'

How non-negotiable will Kent's countryside be? Plus: Enterprise zones+LEP tension

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Monday, March 28 2011


When Kent was trying to resist the previous government's efforts to impose large numbers of new homes on the county as part of its growth agenda, the late county council leader Sandy Bruce-Lockhart was fond of saying that the county's green fields were "non negotiable."

I wonder what he would have made of the government's plans to shake-up the planning regime so, in George Osborne's words, the default position will in future be for councils to assume there is a de facto presumption in favour of development where it boosts jobs and homes. (And it is homes the government is interested in, with housing minister Grant Shapps pointedly referring to the lowest peacetime slump in housebuilding since 1924.)

Developers will no doubt be delighted - although it is worth making the point that this is not necessarily a free-for-all regime in which councils will have to give the nod to anything that builders want. The key word is that old chestnut 'sustainability'. In other words, developers will have to show their plans won't be environmentally unsound, adding to pollution, for example, through increased traffic.

The problem for planners is, I expect, that developers will be all too anxious to point out that where such decisions might be evenly balanced, the presumption should generally be to say 'yes' to their plans when previously the answer may have been 'no'.

And could the government's plans pose a threat to village life? Under its shake-up, developers will find it much easier to apply for permission to change commercial premises into homes. In recent years, there have been countless stories of local residents battling to save pubs, post offices and village shops from being closed and converted into homes. Under these regulations, developers may not even need to make a planning application for such a change of use.


It will be intriguing to see how the Kent, Essex and East Sussex LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) decides what areas it proposes to the government ought to become enterprise zones.

Clearly, the closure of the Pfizer plant in Sandwich makes east Kent a leading candidate. But I expect it won't be quite that simple. There'll be plenty of other alternative options being put forward by council leaders, businesses and MPs in other areas and I'd like to be a fly on the wall when the discussions get underway. I foresee some tense deliberations.

The irony is, of course, that Kent originally wanted its own LEP but was persuaded by Eric Pickles to join forces with its neighbouring counties to create one with much more clout and under his urging performed a U-turn.

Given the current situation, I imagine some would rather that Kent had held its nerve and resisted Mr Pickles' overtures.


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