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Institute demands majorreform of planning system

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The riba is calling for radical changes to the planning system, including taxes on empty properties and a 'social levy' on housebuilders. The demands will be contained in a 20-minute video, to be sent to local councils and also to ministers and mps. It is narrated by Colin James, honorary treasurer of the riba and leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, who argues that 'planning law must serve people rather than people being subservient to it'.

James argues against the use of Section 106 agreements. 'The problem is that under existing arrangements every case has to be argued out, with each developer fighting his corner. This can take months, even years. How much simpler it would be if we had a selective development land tax, determined locally but with national guidelines.'

Paul Latham, md of the Regeneration Practice, argues for a more flexible approach than Circular 6/98, which requires 25 per cent of affordable housing on all large-scale developments. 'There could be a social levy to tax private house builders on 25 per cent of the dwellings given planning permission - unless they agree to build family housing in 25 per cent of the scheme.'

James concludes: 'The planning system is no longer working. Instead of acting as a proper regulator, as an enabler, it has become an obstacle race.'

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