“Street votes” – neighbours to vote on planning permission

“Street votes” – neighbours to vote on planning permission

New plans being drawn up by the government as part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill could see neighbours be given a vote on whether planning permission is granted for developments on their street.

Locals would be given the right to allow building developments on their street within certain design rules. Such developments would only be given the green light should they be endorsed by a supermajority of votes. The Bill also provides for communities to be given a vote on whether a council should be allowed to change a street name.

This comes as Michael Gove, secretary of state for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, opted against several other scheduled reforms for the planning system, though retains the commitment to 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. Previous plans included forcing councils to accept new developments in certain areas in an effort to meet this target; said plans were described as “ill-conceived” by former Prime Minister Theresa May. Rather, new policies include:

  • Design codes which will give local communities input into the layout and construction materials of new developments
  • A locally determined infrastructure levy. This will improve the availability of funds for projects such as roads, schools, and hospitals, achieved through basing the sum on the value of a property when sold as opposed to when it receives planning permission
  • A digitised planning system which will make plans more accessible

Michael Gove said:

“Arithmetic is important but so is beauty, so is belonging, so is democracy, and so is making sure that we are building communities.

People, when it comes to housing development, should be partners. We are going to do everything we can in order to ensure that more of the right homes are built in the right way in the right places. I think it is critically important that even as we seek to improve housing supply you also seek to build communities that people love and are proud of.”

The concept of street votes was indeed proposed last year by the Policy Exchange thinktank, who said:

“Residents of a street should be able to agree by a high majority on new strict rules for designs to make better use of their plots. A street of suburban bungalows, for example, could agree on the right to create Georgian-style terraces. In many cases, an adopted ‘street plan’ would greatly increase the value of residents’ homes, giving them strong reasons to agree on it.”

However, support for the plans is not universal. Theresa May said:

“I can well imagine a situation in which somebody persuades their neighbours in a street to agree to the sort of development that might enhance the value of their houses but which actually has a negative impact on the wider community and wider neighbourhood.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), responded to the Bill:

“If we are to fix the housing crisis, this is the moment for the Government to reverse the decades-long decline of micro and SME builders, who deliver diverse and high-quality homes, and already help to level up their communities by employing local tradespeople and training local school leavers. It is against this imperative that the FMB will judge the new Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, and hold the Government to account on its previous commitments to make the planning system work better for small builders in every area of the country.

61% of FMB house builders see planning as a barrier to development, and alongside difficulties accessing land and finance, it’s little surprise that the proportion of new homes being built by small builders has fallen from 40% to 12% over the last four decades.

SME developers, who are rooted in their local communities, already play an active role in engaging local residents and delivering homes that reflect their local areas. We must be cautious that greater community involvement, in measures such as local plans, doesn’t disrupt delivery or create more unnecessary burdens for small builders. Developments are complex issues, and often the loudest, not necessarily the most sensible, voices are heard. We will follow the passage of the Bill closely and suggest amendments where needed.”

Jamie Lennox

Content Editor. Contact: [email protected] Twitter: @JamieLennoxTM

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