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Royal Borough 'welcomes' Government planning reform 'climbdown'

The Royal Borough’s lead member for planning says he welcomes a Government 'climb down' on controversial planning reforms.

In August, the Government launched its white paper entitled ‘Planning for the Future’ which sought to speed up the home building process and automate parts of planning permission.

But after months of consultation and controversy – including a letter signed by thousands of councillors revolting against the proposals – the Government has decided to publish new measures to ‘provide much needed new homes’.

This includes £100million in funding to build on brownfield land and an updated housing need formula to help councils deliver 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.

Figures in the town, including Maidenhead Civic Society, raised fears over local democracywhen the original plans were announced.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said: “We are reforming our planning system to ensure it is simpler and more certain without compromising standards of design, quality and environmental protection.”

The plans – which appear to focus mainly on cities and large urban areas in England –urge councils to approve more family homes, and pumps £100million into the planning process in the form of the Brownfield Land Release fund, which will be open to local authorities across the country.

Speaking to the Advertiser this week, Cllr David Coppinger (Con, Bray), lead member for planning and Maidenhead, said he welcomed the news but said that it would not affect the Borough Local Plan (BLP), as this is under review.

“The BLP is in examination. It is now in the final stages and we can’t change it,” Cllr Coppinger said.

“But our whole process within our prepared BLP was to always put brownfield sites first.

“There are a few sites which are not brownfield, but that is because we had run out of brownfield sites.”

He added: “The downside of brownfield sites is that most of them are only really suitable for high density flat developments, whereas what we are desperate for is houses.

“Which is where places like the golf course are so critical because it has got room for family houses.

“We really welcome that they [the Government] have climbed down. We gave some very constructive thoughts about what they should do and they have listened.

“We welcome them [the changes], but they do not affect the BLP.”

Wokingham Borough Council has also reacted to the news, having been critical of the original reforms.

Executive member for planning and enforcement, Cllr Wayne Smith, said: “We stood to lose so much had the Government gone ahead with the proposals and doubled the number of houses we needed to build every year in the borough from 789 to 1,635.

“Although the number is still too high, the proposed increase has been removed. So now we go back and look at all our options.”

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