The Bristol Green Party has responded to Government proposals to change planning policy.
The new proposals, laid out in a consultation, would mean that Bristol City Council would have to approve developers’ plans to build on brownfield sites, even if they fail to meet standards for decent quality homes. They also remove restrictions on how big a building can be before a developer has to apply for planning permission.
Other proposals would make it easier for homeowners to extend their homes without seeking planning permission. Former Prime Minister David Cameron proposed a similar policy back in 2008, which was eventually abandoned following a backlash from his own MPs and local councils.
Cllr Carla Denyer, Co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, said, “This government has underfunded local governments for over a decade, and now they are further restricting what power they have to refuse poor developments. Defunding and disempowering local governments has clearly only made the housing crisis worse, yet the government is doubling down on this failed strategy.”
“The public wants affordable housing. Not once in the Government’s new consultation on developing on brownfield sites is the word ‘affordable’ mentioned. Let me be clear: these proposals will do nothing to help solve the housing crisis for the people of Bristol, but will do plenty to allow private property developers to build more unaffordable housing to make more money.”
Cllr Tony Dyer, Bristol Green Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes, said; “ I am no longer surprised at this Tory government’s ability to take a good idea and turn it into bad policy. Housing developments must provide homes that people actually want and can afford to live in – that’s the way to ensure these developments are supported by local communities. Removing the need for these homes to meet standards will not win public support nor help solve the housing crisis, as history shows.”
The proposals for brownfield development will only come into effect for councils that cannot demonstrate a full five year supply of housing. Cllr Dyer explains that this may end up with unintended consequences.
“Removing the ability for local planning committees to have any control over brownfield applications if they fall below the 95% housing threshold could, perversely, encourage local authorities to increase development by any means in order to stay above this line. As green field sites are almost always easier to develop on, these would then become the focus for development, rather than the brownfield sites this policy change hopes to promote.
Cllr Dyer recently brought a motion to Bristol City Council calling on them to maximise housing supply from existing buildings.
He continued, “In Bristol, between 2022-2023 there were over 5000 empty homes and around 21,000 families on the housing waitlist. My motion last month went some way to offering solutions on how to bring empty homes and buildings back into use to try and help solve this crisis and received cross party support.
“But there is much more that could be done, and this must be done at a local level to ensure the vitality of our high streets and office employment is not undermined. We want to increase the supply of housing but not at the expense of our retail and commercial sector – and this needs local democratic oversight.
“The Government should be working with local councils, not against them, to maximise the delivery of affordable housing. This could also include powers to introduce rent controls alongside an end to Right to Buy, and a ban on no-fault evictions.”