SEPTEMBER 4 2020 – ROBERT JENRICK “SAYS THAT THE GOVERNMENT’S PLANNED SHAKE-UP OF THE PLANNING SYSTEM WILL HELP LOCAL PEOPLE HAVE MORE SAY ON WHERE HOUSES SHOULD BE BUILT AND WHAT THEY SHOULD LOOK LIKE”

Robert Jenrick

 

Minister: People should “embrace” planning reforms

Minister: People should “embrace” planning reforms

The Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government says that the Government’s planned shake-up of the planning system will help local people have more say on where houses should be built and what they should look like.

by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Robert Jenrick was in Cornwall today (Thursday) to visit Newquay and Truro on a whistlestop tour.

In Newquay he saw the Duchy of Cornwall’s Nansledan development which is providing a major extension to the town with thousands of new homes.

And in Truro he met with the Truro Towns Board which is looking at what can be done to help regenerate the city centre in the future.

He said: “I have been to see some fantastic housing developments in Newquay which have informed some of our ideas for planning reforms where you use a design code to fit in with the look and feel of an area rather than having identikit housing imposed on a local community.

“Here in Truro I had the pleasure of meeting the Truro Towns Fund board to hear about their very exciting plans to use the £25million that we want to invest in the town so that we can get more tourists here, help with the regeneration and get more housing as well.”

Robert Jenrick in Truro today

The Towns Fund, a national project which is aiming to help towns to develop regeneration schemes, was established before the current coronavirus crisis which has impacted heavily on town and city centres.

Asked whether there would have to be more help provided to town city centres as a result Mr Jenrick said that they would have to look differently about what the centres are for.

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“Town and city centres were under a lot of pressure before covid, market forces encouraging us to shop more online, those market forces have been accelerated dramatically over the last few months and we are very aware of that and I have heard about some of the empty shops in Truro for example which you see in towns across the country.

“This fund will help the community, if you can get the very interesting proposals agreed, get the funding flowing in the coming months and help confidence as you will see with the other places in Cornwall such as Penzance, Camborne and St Ives which are also going to be beneficiaries.

“But beyond that we do need to think very carefully about how town and city centres adapt with the new circumstances and for me that will mean getting more housing in particular into these places so that as retail changes you have more people young and old living here and there will be more opportunities for more flexible working places, of which Cornwall could be a beneficiary because it is a place where people want to live and if there are more opportunities for people to work from home or working more flexibly that will help people to stay here rather than going elsewhere to work in the country.”

One controversial issue recently has been the Government’s planned planning reforms which look set to alter the planning system and some say will result in councils and local people having less say over developments.

Jenrick’s new planning framework ‘a disaster for Cornwall’

Mebyon Kernow has described the plans as a “disaster for Cornwall” while some Lib Dem councillors have urged councils to oppose the proposals.

Mr Jenrick said that he hoped that people would “embrace” the plans which he claimed would allow people to have more say over what is built in their communities.

““I hope people will embrace the reforms when they read them and understand what we are trying to do. There will be much greater say for local people at the plan making stage which should be the really important, meaningful moment, we want to inspire local people to get involved in that to decide exactly where they want homes to be built and also where they don’t want them to be built because there will be areas that we will want to be protected and that means there won’t be developments and it would be very unlikely that we would get speculative developments which we do today which annoy people particularly when they have gone to the trouble of creating neighbourhood plans for example.

“But also they will have a lot more say on what the buildings look like so you will be able to create a neighbourhood plan with a design code and conditions attached to it. It could be like Nansledan or it could be something very different, whatever the local community chooses and that will prevent somebody coming along and building something entirely out of character with the local community.”

Nansledan

The secretary of state also said that he hoped a simpler planning system would also enable more small scale building companies to build developments and end the reliance on “a small number of volume housebuilders that many people feel are not providing good quality housing that meets the needs of the local community”.

Mr Jenrick added that the use of masterplans and early planning would help local people to shape how developments will look and where they take place.

He said: “The proposals that we are bringing forward for the planning system ask every community to create their own design code so it will be up to people in Truro or any other Cornish community to consider what matters to them and some will opt for more traditional designs, others might want to do something much more contemporary but local people will decide what the look and feel of new developments should be and that will mean there will be a move away from volume housebuilders coming in and building houses that look the same in Truro as they might do in Mansfield or Nottingham or some other part of the country.

“By doing that not only do we create places that people want to live in but we can make the place more beautiful and environmentally friendly, but we also build more support for housebuilding and helping the next generation onto the housing ladder because I think here in Cornwall there is a serious affordability crisis so young people cannot get onto the housing ladder, we need to build more homes but we need to build them in a way that looks good, fits in with local communities, is environmentally sustainable and obviously there needs to be a good share of the homes that are affordable for local people rather than simply catering for second homers and retirees and so on who want to come here.”

One major concern has been the impact on the provision of affordable housing with proposals suggesting that developments of less than 50 homes not having to provide any.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked Mr Jenrick about concerns in Cornwall around what is classed as “affordable” with many people finding that homes marketed as such are still out of reach and the need for more social rented properties.

We asked whether there was anything that the government could do to try and help address the issue. Mr Jenrick did not answer the question directly but said that the government was trying to provide more affordable homes.

He said: “The thrust of our policy is to build more homes and by doing that we will make more homes available of all types and tenures in all parts of the country but we are also doing specific initiatives to address the challenge.

“We have enabled local councils to borrow to build council housing and I have heard that Cornwall is doing that, Cornwall Council is building 250 homes a year which is a good beginning and they are taking the issue seriously.

“We are also investing nationally £12bn in an affordable homes programme which is a range of different products – shared ownership, affordable rent and social rent – that will help people to step onto the housing ladder. With the newer developments we will be bringing forward our first homes idea which will enable local first time buyers to get a 30% discount on their home and that was very much inspired by Cornish MPs and their concerns and those of local people that housebuilding was going on but all too often they were out of reach of local first time buyers.

“And in our planning reforms we are going to be thinking of other ways in which we can help to get more people onto the housing ladder as well because, for me, it is the greatest generational challenge that we face, we have got to tackle it and Cornwall is a perfect example of where that needs to be done.”