Rebalancing the Algorithm

Text of a letter to The Oxford Mail about the Planning White Paper

19 November 2020

This letter from the Society’s Vice-Chair was published in The Oxford Mail on 17 November 2020.

It was a relief to read in Sunday’s papers that, in the face of threatened rebellion by Conservative MPs, the ill-conceived planning algorithm proposed in the White Paper Planning for the Future is to be ‘rebalanced’ so more homes are built in urban areas, not just in the South East but particularly in the Midlands and the North.

But that is not the only feature of the White Paper that needs to be rethought.  Described as a ‘developers’ charter’ and ‘planning by diktat’, it also threatens to remove any autonomy from local councils.  Of particular concern to Oxford is the ambiguous treatment of control of development in conservation areas.  Listed buildings will be recognised and protected, but buildings of historic or architectural merit receive little mention. This aspect of the White Paper must be carefully reviewed as it has the potential to change the architectural character of towns and cities across the country.

The proposals in the White Paper have been condemned by commentators and citizens alike.  And, having consulted its members by webinar, the Civic Society’s submission to the Consultation believes the objectives should be to produce attractive developments, promote wellbeing for communities, protect the environment and address critical climate change, not promote speed and tick boxes for housing numbers. We do not believe the proposed changes will, in themselves, materially promote an increase in the rate of delivering more homes.

Once the Government has had the opportunity to analyse the comments and representations emerging from the Public Consultation, we fully expect further changes to the White Paper’s proposals.

Gillian Coates, Vice Chair, OCS

16 11 20