South Holland leader at heart of national planning reform

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THE leader of South Holland District Council has played a vital role in the biggest reform of national planning policy years.

Coun Gary Porter was handpicked by planning minister Greg Clark to be on a four-man panel charged with helping the Government rewrite development rules.

And after hours of deliberation, going through more than 1,500 pages of regulations, Mr Porter claims he is “largely happy” with the resulting 52-page document which will define planning guidelines from next year.

Mr Porter, who was approached as chairman of the Local Government Association Environment and Housing Programme Board, said: “I am happy with most of it but not all of it.

“The majority of the changes were accepted by all of us but other bits went on a majority vote.”

Mr Porter said one of his biggest concerns was the timeframe for this to go live.

MPs wanted it to be operational from December, but now it is expected to be live in April, even though he had hoped to hold off until 2013 to give councils the chance to prepare.

But he hopes in the long term the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will make the process easier for everyone to understand, resulting in a greater trust in it.

Mr Porter added: “I don’t think people trust the planning system because it is too complicated and it frightens people because it is full of technical jargon. This new framework will make it easier to understand.

“Unfortunately, the current system has failed to deliver what we need.

“In this area we need about 500 new homes a year but there have only been about 200 built.

“That won’t change immediately because of the financial situation but once it does, we need a planning system people trust and they will only do that if they understand it.

“Once the economy picks up this will allow councils to build houses, of the right type, in the right place and people will be able to understand why the decisions have been taken.”

The framework has, however, been criticised by some campaign groups. See left.