New homes, hospitals, schools, shops and offices would be allowed automatically in “growth” areas. In “renewal” zones, largely urban and brownfield sites, proposals would be given “permission in principle” subject to basic checks. Green belt and areas of outstanding natural beauty would be protected. The prospect of a modern-day application and use of such codes to give developers “permission in principle” in zones categorised as being for growth was greeted with alarm in some quarters.
The proposed changes are likely to appeal to developers, but they prompted criticism from housing charities, planning officers and architects who warned of a new generation of fast and sub-standard housing.
The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) condemned them as disruptive and rushed, saying 90% of planning applications are currently approved but there are up to 1m unbuilt permissions.
Hugh Ellis, director of policy at TCPA, criticised the reforms overall, saying: “This kind of disruptive reform doesn’t suit anybody, neither landowners nor developers. They’re turning the system on its head at a time when it’s working very well for the volume house builders – 90% of planning applications are approved and there are about a million unbuilt permissions.” He added: “It’s about local democracy. When local people are walking down the street and come across a new development they didn’t know about, the answer will now be: ‘You should have been involved in the consultation eight years ago when the code was agreed.’ He explained, “It’s diluting the democratic process. At the moment, people get two chances to be involved: once when the plan is made, and once when a planning application is submitted. Now they’ll only have a chance when the code is being prepared.”
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) described the proposals as “shameful” and said they would do “almost nothing to guarantee the delivery of affordable, well-designed and sustainable homes”.
“While they might help to ‘get Britain building’ – paired with the extension of permitted development rights last week – there’s every chance they could also lead to the development of the next generation of slum housing,” said RIBA president Alan Jones.
Shelter said social housing “could face extinction” if the requirement for developers to build their fair share was removed. “Section 106 agreements between developers and councils are tragically one of the only ways we get social homes built these days, due to a lack of direct government investment,” said its chief executive, Polly Neate. “So, it makes no sense to remove this route to genuinely affordable homes without a guaranteed alternative.”
Zack Simons, a planning barrister, said, “literally nothing” could not already be achieved under the current planning system.
“Promises of “radical reform” can grab headlines. But remember that of more than 400,000 planning applications which are determined every year, over 80% are granted permission and under 0.5% are appealed to the Planning Inspectorate.”
The proposals contain scant detail on any alternative way to boost the number of affordable homes.
Housing is one problem of capitalism which has been a constant source of difficulty and is part and parcel of working class life. Few members of our class escape some aspect of housing trouble. Whether it is the complete crisis of homelessness, or the stress involved in keeping our homes through paying rent or repaying a loan. Most members of our class live in relative poor housing, some of which is within the bounds of adequacy, while the rest reflects the worst in living conditions. Our quality of housing acts as good guide to the degree of suffering associated with the many other problems inherent in our class position such as bad health , poor nutrition and inadequate education. We can therefore accept that the problem of housing reflects the problems of capitalism. When socialism is established it will be necessary to set up councils at local, regional and global levels for the administration of social affairs in every aspect of productive activity. Also there will have to be councils whose functions will be to co-ordinate the work of the various specific councils. The majority of the people in a local area will make decisions affecting that area specifically, the people in a certain region will make decisions for that region and everyone will make global decisions. This will mean that everyone must have access to vast amounts of knowledge, concerning what each area produces, where it is stored , how what is needed can be got from one place and moved to another. All this knowledge can be computerised. When it comes to voting on specific issues people need go no further than their living room. People could, if they wished, check on how a certain project was progressing so that whatever was happening could be under the constant scrutiny of society as a whole.
When socialism is established it will have two important projects concerning housing. One will be to find homes for the millions throughout the world who have none. The other will be to clear the world of the horrible slums and shanty towns in which so many of its population live. Therefore an enormous world-wide reconstruction project would begin which would involve the democratic participation of nearly everyone, in one way or other. It would have to be decided, what region and what local area requires houses, how many, what type or style, what materials they will be made from and how much of each is required. Obviously, with this will go the many and various decisions concerning town planning, roads, recreational facilities, "shopping centres". Though the work involved may require many people, they will be forthcoming from all the occupations made redundant by the overthrow of capitalism, such as production for war and anything concerning finance, advertising, etc. Schools for training and re-training people in the various skills will be set up, and as far as the productive work goes they will have the machinery capitalism created plus whatever advances on this the first members of socialist society will make. People with specific skills related to housing, or those who wish to learn them, can volunteer at an administrative office similar to present man-power or job-centres and can be notified where their skills can be used.
After socialism has solved the initial task of clearing away capitalism’s rubble in every respect (feeding, clothing, housing, educating, clearing away the pollution, curing curable diseases), then it will be apparent that the change in society will be more than just production for use instead of profit, but will entail vast changes from top to bottom in every part of society. Nowhere will this be apparent more than over how we group in communities. Cities as we know them to day will probably no longer exist as people won’t want or need to be condensed in a particular area (the fulfilment of the Communist Manifesto demand for the "gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country".) When starvation has been stopped and when every human being has a roof over their head, then socialist society can turn to satisfying people’s needs in a more sophisticated way , and this will certainly be the case in housing. Whenever there is a need for a new type of house, a town or a building for the use of the community, architects will submit plans and models which can be voted on by the community as a whole in a given area. Though there may be competition between the various architects and planners, it will be from the premise of who can best beautify the locality. One can be certain that there will be new types of dwellings. Along with the disappearance of cities as we know them will also go the high-rises, those up-turned shoe-boxes where people are crammed in like sardines, to be replaced with buildings where people can at least live like humans. With whatever changes in the family structure the new social conditions will create will also come a need for new types of homes ; there may be a type of communal home. And it may be that the design of a building will be determined by its functions, its given physical environment and the materials to be used. Whatever the case, people will be able to choose their home to suit their own particular needs concerning physical comfort and recreational requirements.