One of the ways our economy will recover will be through building, including housing and infrastructure projects, both of which our country needs. The Conservative government has pledged to “build back better” when we recover from the Coronavirus pandemic, which is to be commended.
England in particular is a densely populated country and we know we need more housing to meet demand. Crawley is a microcosm of this although we are even more constrained in our land supply, with the long-term trend showing much greater housing demand than supply.
Fixing the housing shortage isn’t going to be easy. One aspect of many is the planning system. The government are consulting on proposals to reform the planning system with a view to enabling more homes to be built. Some of these new proposals are helpful but some of them are not suited for Crawley in particular.
Crawley’s land constraints means we cannot meet all our own housing needs, so we are reliant on ‘the duty the cooperate’ under the existing planning regime, where larger neighbouring authorities help to meet some of our housing need. Unfortunately, the planning white paper proposes to remove this and also has unrealistically high housing targets. While some simplification of the planning process that is proposed is welcome, the white paper goes too far and seeks to designate all land into three basic designations of protect, renewal and growth. It’s much more complicated than that and such simple designations risk unsuitable development by taking away local authority control on planning applications, once these designations are created.
I was pleased to produce and propose a cross-party motion at last week’s Full Council meeting at Crawley Borough Council, that raised our shared concerns about these planning proposals and that would headline the Council’s formal consultation response. I don’t always agree with every planning decision taken locally, but crucially when they are local Planning Committee decisions, Crawley councillors are accountable for those decisions. Such a loss of local accountability would be a backwards step and I was pleased that every councillor present supported this motion, creating a united Crawley voice.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
28th October 2020