East Sussex councillors oppose ‘zoning’ planning reforms

County councillors are set to vote on a motion seeking to preserve the rights of residents to object to individual planning applications. 

Monday, 27th September 2021, 9:18 am
Housebuilding (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The motion, from Labour councillors Godfrey Daniel and Chris Collier, comes in response to reforms proposed within the government’s Planning for the Future white paper. 

These reforms included a potential move to plan and zone based development, which could see some applications in some areas automatically approved.

As with all county council motions, the motion was first considered by the lead member with responsibility for the area in question, who decides the council’s official response.

In this case it was lead member for transport and environment Claire Dowling, who considered the motion at a meeting last Monday (September 20). 

At that meeting, Cllr Daniel said: “Those of us who have been involved in planning policy for many years are very well aware that at a county and district level, most people do not get involved in those borough and district plans. They are more concerned about whatever is near them and that is quite understandable really. 

“The important thing is that we have to be able to give people the right to object. That doesn’t mean to say they are right, that doesn’t mean it is a vote on whether it is a popular scheme or not. 

“Fundamentally our planning system does work, but we seem to get criticised by the government for not building enough houses. 

“There are actually over a million houses which already have permission to be built. The fact they are not built isn’t the fault of the planning system, it is the fault that there is no effective remedy with the actual developers.”

While officers had recommended the council support the motion, they suggested that an alternative wording should be put in place to reflect some of the council’s earlier consultation responses.

These included extra wording on the use of digital technology and participation in the making of neighbourhood plans.

Officers also noted that a very similar motion had been debated (and passed) in the House of Commons in June. 

Cllr Daniel said he could ‘live with’ the changes, but was critical of neighbourhood plans in general. 

After a brief discussion Cllr Dowling expressed support for the aims of the motion and agreed to back it with the additional wording