A key focus of the Society is to keep watch on the weekly planning applications for the town of Maldon, especially its historic centre, and also its immediate surroundings including Langford and Heybridge.
As well as trying to ensure our many buildings of historic or public interest are protected, we seek to ensure that any new developments are appropriate to their visual context and the needs of the town.
In July, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, set out his plans for housing delivery across England. Supporting the planning system was a key part of his speech which including the following important content regarding the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and development management:
“The government’s commitment to development and regeneration in and around existing town and city centres is also guiding its consideration of responses to the consultation on updating the NPPF.
The government wants to make it easier to progress such developments, and to that end is clear that:
• Development should proceed on sites that are adopted in a local plan with full input from the local community, unless there are strong reasons why it cannot.
• Local councils should be open and pragmatic in agreeing changes to developments where conditions mean that the original plan may no longer be viable, rather than losing the development wholesale or seeing development mothballed.
• Better use should be made of small pockets of brownfield land by being more permissive, so more homes can be built more quickly, where and how it makes sense, giving more confidence and certainty to SME builders.
Later in the year, the government will pass the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to put in place our reforms to the planning system that will create more beautiful and sustainable homes in the right places and publish updates to the National Planning Policy Framework.”
Here in Maldon, the proposal that would have a great effect upon the town, is the anticipated application to build 275 houses on land at Maldon Hall Farm. An opposition group has already been formed and we have contributed to their gathering of information. A further implication of any development would be that it would herald the opening up of this exceptional agricultural land west of the bypass to a further 600 or so houses, Care Home and research establishment/s. This land is not allocated for such uses in the present Local Development Plan and would have a profound effect upon the town’s present services, facilities, and transport infrastructure.
Unfortunately, national policies are weighted to encourage more house-building ………..
Extracts from House of Commons Committee Report of 14 July 2023
“The Government’s national housing target is to deliver 300,000 net new homes per year by the mid-2020s and 1 million new homes over the course of this Parliament.
The Government’s reform proposals include making local housing targets advisory and removing the need for local authorities to continually demonstrate a deliverable 5-year housing land supply. We have heard evidence from many stakeholders that these measures will render the national housing target impossible to achieve.”
“Over several decades, successive governments have failed to build enough new homes, which is an underlying cause of the current affordability crisis. The Government must now take urgent action to reverse this trend in short order, or else it will not achieve its national housing target of building 300,000 net new homes by the mid-2020s.”
Maldon’s Local Development Plan:
The government has made several differing proposals for national planning policy reform since 2019, which has resulted in uncertainty among local authorities. The Government’s December 2022 announcement of its intention to make changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, and the subsequent public consultation, has continued the trend of stop-start planning reform that has become the norm over several years.
This uncertainty has resulted in 58 local authorities stalling, delaying, or withdrawing their local plans to deliver housing - 28 of those since the December 2022 announcement. Contrary to the Government’s objective of facilitating local plan-making, the short-term effect of announcing the planning reform proposals has been to halt the progress of local plans in many areas. The situation in Maldon is the same – the timetable for progress has slipped and that leaves the authority open to challenges regarding housing supply – dangerous territory when they attempt to reject unsuitable housing developments in unsuitable locations.
Draft regulations to introduce a national fee increase of 35 percent for major applications and 25 percent for all other applications were laid before parliament in July. This is a significant amount, which should provide a greater income for the local planning authority.
A further amendment will introduce an annual rise in application fees linked to inflation (and capped at 10%) every April from 2025 onwards. Also, applicants submitting non-major applications (including householder developments) that the local authority have not come to a decision on, will be eligible to receive a refund of their fee that they paid on initial deposit of the proposals after 16 weeks.
These revisions now need to be voted on by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords before they can come into effect.
The Local Government Association, which represents councils, is urging the Government to urgently make Parliamentary time to introduce the fee uplift, following the return of MPs to Parliament. Planning fees currently do not cover the true cost of processing planning applications, with 305 out of 343 local authority planning departments operating in a deficit totalling £245.4 million in 2020/21 – money coming from our pockets.