Members of the House of Lords have been told that the government’s flagship Housing and Planning Bill has not been sufficiently ‘rural proofed’ to assess its impact on rural areas.
The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has set out its concerns ahead of the second reading of the draft legislation in the House of Lords on 26 January 2016, including proposing a number of new measures for inclusion in the Bill.
The Housing and Planning Bill takes forward the government's manifesto commitment of expanding affordable home ownership, improving housing management in both the social and private rented sectors and implementing planning reforms to remove any unnecessary obstacles to these objectives.
Cllr Ken Browse, chairman of NALC said: “Both the Bill and consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework (pose some challenges particularly for rural communities which need to be addressed if the ambition of delivering more housing, which is shared by many, is to be achieved.
“NALC appreciates the government has a clear mandate on these issues from its manifesto and we are keen to work with the government to ensure an increase in the supply of land for housing, but delivered in a way that ensures communities can genuinely influence decision making and the planning system, in particular through neighbourhood planning.
“However I am amazed at the level of rural proofing of these proposals given the government’s positive response to the Cameron Review, and I hope the House of Lords will consider the impact of this legislation on rural areas and support our call for a rural proofing review two years after the Bill comes into force.
“We would also like to see safeguards in the Bill to ensure the proceeds of the sale of houses in rural areas are used to provide replacements in the same or a nearby community. Rural areas will be particularly hard hit by proposals on the sale of vacant local authority stock and we want to ensure these proposals do not exacerbate the housing crisis already facing rural areas.
“The government also has a golden opportunity to support devolution to communities through new powers for local councils including the introduction of a ‘right to be consulted’ and ‘right of planning appeal’ as well as a package of incentives to increase the take-up of neighbourhood planning.”