Affordable homes supply in Wakefield could be hit by changes to planning permission, councillors claim

The supply of affordable homes in Wakefield will be severely hit if the Government pressed ahead with an overhaul of planning laws, it has been suggested.

By David Spereall
Friday, 2nd October 2020, 12:30 pm

Ministers are consulting on measures which would allow developers to be given automatic planning permission for some types of work.

But Matthew Morley, Wakefield Council's portfolio holder for planning, branded the idea "an attack on local democracy".

The plans have already drawn criticism from council officers and some Tory MPs amid concerns local residents will have a less of a say.

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The government says the changes are necessary to reboot the economy.

The Government says the changes are needed to help revive the economy and solve the housing crisis, while Wakefield's Conservative group leader said he would support some alterations to the current rules.

But speaking at a full council meeting on Wednesday, Councillor Morley said: "This will see our planning committee bypassed.

"You could potentially see the number of houses we have to deliver in the district double.

"It will mean less affordable housing and fewer homes to rent."

Councillor Morley branded the plans "an attack on local democracy".

Developers are required by law to ensure a certain proportion of the homes they build are cheap enough to be classed as affordable, as long they are putting up more than 10 properties.

Under the proposed changes, that rule could be relaxed to only apply to developments of around 50 homes or more.

Coun Morley, who also claimed more than half of Tory councillors across the country were against the proposals, added: "That could be well open to abuse by developers.

"You wonder why the Conservatives are favouring developers over residents.

"I know some people complain about the planning system, but it does work."

The leader of Wakefield's Conservative group, Nadeem Ahmed, said he believed some parts of the law should be relaxed but refused to "commit to a line" on the issue until more was known.

"I think it's important we represent our residents when they have objections and if we can't then it makes a farce of local democracy," he told the meeting.

"But it's important that though I do believe certain planning regulations should be eased, it shouldn't be done at the expense of people being able to buy their own homes.

"We must encourage development but it can't be done at the expense of greenbelt land or the character of an area.

"If this is detrimental to local government or democracy then we would speak against it."

Local Democracy Reporting Service