In a landmark assessment of the English planning system, former Housing Minister Nick Raynsford has warned that planning has been reduced to a “chaotic patchwork” of responsibilities which is not compatible with promoting the health, wellbeing and civil rights of communities

The Raynsford Review states that while planning has a huge potential to make people’s lives better this opportunity has been undermined by deregulation. It urges the government to immediately restrict permitted development, which allows the conversion of commercial buildings to housing units without any proper safeguards on quality, with a senior member of the review team branding it “toxic”.

The Raynsford Review outlines a comprehensive new agenda for a system which can lead to greater certainty and coordination of investment, and one which actually protects and enhances people’s lives and well-being.

In the hopes of reducing inequality, the review recommends that the Treasury must partially redistribute capital gains tax and stamp duty to invest in the nation’s deprived areas. Councils would also be given powers to compulsory purchase land at a price which enables a genuinely fair share of development values between landowners and communities.

Under the review’s proposals, the National Infrastructure Commission would be repurposed to take control of a ‘National Sustainable Development Plan’ which would act as the predominant framework for all planning decisions and, the review claims, would speed up development and lead to greater market certainty.

Nick Raynsford said: “We ignore at our peril the anger and disaffection felt by so many communities at the failure of current planning policies and procedures to listen to their concerns and respond to their needs. Restoring public confidence in the planning system is one of our generation’s greatest challenges.

“Visionary planning is not just about creating great places in which to live and work. It is also about ensuring that we meet the huge environmental challenges our society faces, not least those arising from the very serious threat of global warming.”

Hugh Ellis, interim chief executive of the TCPA, added: “Permitted development is toxic and leads to a type of inequality not seen in the Britain for over a century. Under the arrangements—which have produced over 100,000 housing units—vulnerable people are stripped of any right to light and space, which their children forced to play in active car parks, and no contribution to local services such as doctor’s surgeries or local schools.

“We have a choice. Do we want to build the slums of the future or create places that actually enhance people’s lives?”

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