Rural Matters

Government’s Planning Reforms Will Have Devastating Effect on Dorset

Last month the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, threatened to unleash dramatic changes to the planning system in a White Paper. A White Paper may sound innocuous, but this would have a devastating effect on Dorset communities and countryside. You may commend Mr Jenrick for being ambitious with his changes to reform what many regard as a convoluted and “outdated” planning system, and clearly there are some good ideas in it. However government calls for deregulation of the planning system would be very damaging as locally-led development offers the best outcomes for people and nature. It can ensure that the right development is in the right place, and create places where people actually want to live. The reforms will only serve to undermine local voices, by preventing communities from managing their own neighbourhoods.

Our key concerns are:

  • The proposed planning reforms will result in unwarranted overdevelopment in Dorset, with significantly higher housing numbers than are needed. 
  • There would be a significant loss of local democracy and a further reduction of the public involvement in the planning process – Dorset Council (DC) must Stand up for Dorset and its residents rather than give in to demands from Westminster.
  • The proposals do not guarantee adequate protection for the precious Dorset environment.
  • The reforms would reduce the amount of affordable housing.
  • Attempts to address the climate emergency are pitiful, with the government’s aim to deliver carbon neutral homes only by 2050.
Shillingstone house building site image by CPRE

Excessive Housing Threat

Dorset CPRE commissioned an independent report ( https://dorset-cpre.org.uk/news/current-news/item/download/787) which was published recently that heavily criticised the government’s Standard Housing Method for assessing local housing need. The government used 2014 household projections rather than later projections which suggest lower housing needs. Local Plan Housing Targets for Rural Dorset (DC) are currently an annual average of 1,390 dwellings while the government’s housing need target is 1,827 homes using 2014 household projections.

The White Paper adds new criteria to boost national housebuilding from 270,000 to 337,000 homes every year, while in Rural Dorset it is likely to rise by a further 15% or so ie well over 2,000 dwellings according to Lichfields, the planning consultancy. This is based on an algorithm which is attracting increasing criticism as have most government algorithms this year. South East England would see even greater increases and many Tory MPs are expressing concern that planning reforms would destroy leafy suburbia and create the slums of the future. Is a U-turn imminent on this and the Planning White Paper? In the meantime tell your local Dorset MP what you think about excessive housing and the threat to Dorset’s precious environment, and the singular failure to provide genuinely affordable and social housing which our young families need!

By: Rupert Hardy, Chairman, North Dorset CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England)

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