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Minister to cut 'abuse' of planning system by councils

Planning minister Nick Boles has told the AJ’s sister title Construction News his department will cut the ‘abuse’ of planning conditions in permissions to speed up housebuilding.

Speaking at the Construction News Summit 2013 last Thursday, Boles, who is responsible for planning and regulation at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), agreed that development was still too slow and said councils were sometimes to blame.

‘There are some councils who make excessive use of planning conditions,’ he said. ‘Where once upon a time you may get a planning permission with three, four, five conditions; we are going to try to reduce the abuse of [these] conditions.’

Last week, the minster urged businesses and farmers to challenge local authorities who were making ‘unreasonable information requests [that] were frankly unnecessary’.

He said that although the DCLG was unable to instruct councils not to ask for this information, his department was encouraging companies to challenge it. Otherwise, he said, ‘behaviour won’t change’.

On development standards, the minister said quality was better than it had been over the past 15 to 20 years.

He cited the Building for Life initiative launched by the Design Council in 2012 and said it was something he encouraged housebuilders to adopt.

Boles added: ‘It is in [housebuilders’] interests to design better because if they do, they’ll get higher prices and planning permission more quickly.’

The minister said the government’s Help to Buy scheme has given a boost to the market, with more people coming forward wanting to buy houses.

As a result, he said he hoped housebuilders would now start to build on sites more quickly than they have in the past.

However, he added that he did not think this was a fault that lay with housebuilders, criticising Labour’s belief that the industry was ‘speculating’ over this issue.

He said developers were only able to sell these sites when there were buyers available, and now they were.

The minister added: ‘I’m rather expecting the housebuilding industry to really go at it – to up their build-out rate, to be seeking planning permission on new sites – so we can get the supply to come through, because that is what will make sure we have a healthy market rather than an unstable one.’

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