Regular attenders of planning committee meetings will know that it can be difficult to divine what planning committee members think and occasionally whether they think at all.
Now, though, help is at hand, as PPS Group has just published its first annual Planning Committee Barometer – a survey of the views of councillors sitting on planning committees. PPS surveyed all 4,200 planning committee members in England in September 2015. Responses were received from 492, so more than 10 percent.
Some of the responses were as you would have expected. Others were a surprise. Housebuilders will be gratified to know that fully 70 percent of respondents said that the provision of homes for future generations was a top priority, significantly more than the next two priorities - building thriving town centres (52%) or job creation (51%).
A clear majority (72%) are concerned about the housing supply in their area with nearly one third (31%) saying they felt that the supply was “severely lacking”.
But there was no consensus on how to deal with the problem. Almost half of councillors (49%) said that they didn’t think the Government’s aim of securing planning permission on 90% of brownfield land is achievable in their area – 38% thought it was. As always, Green Belt was a touchstone issue for many councillors. 28% said that Green Belt Protection is paramount. And the survey suggests that the councillors who think this, think it very strongly. Preserving the Green Belt was seen as a top priority by 27% of respondents – far more than were worried about encouraging tourism, creating more social places or dealing with crime.
I suppose we can take some encouragement from the fact that 30% of councillors say that Green Belt Reviews are needed but it would be useful to know the geographic split of these respondents. How do the Green Belt issues play out in the South East versus the rest of the country? Something for next year’s research.
There are a couple of other interesting finds in the research. Half of councillors are sceptical of the lack of scrutiny being given to neighbourhood plans and a whacking 82% of councillors think that the financial implications of fighting a potential appeal influences planning decisions to some degree.
We will repeat this survey next year. If you have any suggestions for interesting questions we might ask, then please get in touch.
This article is taken from the October 2015 edition of Housebuilder magazine - visit Housebuilder online here