(Sarah Platts, Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Manager was in attendance for this item)
(1) Mr Whiting introduced the report. KCC and many other colleagues from local government across the country had responded very strongly to the government consultation regarding changes to current planning system. Kent MPs had raised concerns in the Commons around the same issues.
Concerns were raised about the provision of strategic infrastructure.
(2) Ms Platts gave an overview of the White Paper and outlined the key reforms and considerations for KCC. The White Paper included many sweeping reforms which would have a massive impact on how growth is planned and how the supporting infrastructure would come about. It was noted that the White Paper was lacking in detail.
The White Paper was mainly focussed on housing and argued that house building was being slowed down by the planning system. There was little detail around reforms that could affect KCC.
The White Paper was stated to put more focus on design and digitise the planning process. Land use plans would be introduced, with three types of land categories: “growth areas”, “renewal areas” and “protected areas”.
It was raised as a concern that arbitrary timescales are being proposed to be set without due consideration to statutory consultees such as KCC and without due regard for the level of detail that would be required at an early stage during the Local Plan process in order to categorise land uses.
The Duty to Cooperate, which has been important in strategic planning (including of minerals and waste management), was to be lost but there was no detail around what would replace it.
Transport and Highways are integral to planning for growth but are hardly mentioned in the White Paper.
One of the key areas of concern is the funding of infrastructure. The current way of securing funding through Section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy are due to be scrapped and would be replaced with an infrastructure levy which would be a proportion of the value of the development, set above a fixed threshold. Again, details around how this would operate are limited.
(3) In response to questions, the following points were raised:
· Developers hold responsibility for housing delivery but this is not properly captured in the White Paper
· Concerns were raised around the potential loss of employment land being re-allocated for housing sites and that this could result in areas of housing development without local employment.
· Comments were made regarding the potential for a reduced level of public consultation in an attempt to streamline the process to accelerate the delivery of housing.
· Proposals about authorities being able to borrow against infrastructure levies were of concern.
· Where the White Paper is ‘silent’ on a number of issues, it was suggested that the response from KCC could seek to put forward solutions and produce a solution focussed response.
(4) Resolved that the comments made be included in KCC’s response and that the signing of KCC’s response to the white papers be delegated to the Cabinet Member for Economic Development.