What proposed new planning application laws mean for Suffolk?

The government debuted new planning laws at the Queen's Speech.

The government debuted new planning laws at the Queen's Speech. - Credit: PA

Proposed changes to the planning rules to allow neighbours to vote on contentious plans are unlikely to have much effect on applications in real life, councillors believe.

But they could force the government to spend time and money bringing in new rules that are almost never used, Ipswich council's Labour leader David Ellesmere believes.

The government's debuted plans to hold local referenda on controversial planning applications at the Queen's Speech and it has since split Conservative MPs.

One Tory, Huw Merriman, described the idea as "utter madness," warning it could set neighbour against neighbour and prevent home improvements because of "neighbour envy."

David Ellesmere Ipswich Council Leader

David Ellesmere did not think the new planning rules would stifle development - Credit: Charlotte Bond

However, Mr Ellesmere said that having studied the proposed legislation, he did not think it would ever be enacted.

He said: "This is a proposal which would allow a home improvement to go ahead if a referendum approves it once it has been rejected by a planning authority.

"The fact is most home extensions don't need planning approval, they can be done under permitted development, and the vast majority of those that do are granted permission by officers under delegated powers.

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"It has to be a pretty big and controversial extension to come before a planning committee and at that stage neighbours' views are taken into account anyway.

"To be honest I can't see it ever being used, yet the government will have to spend a lot of effort in getting set up."

House building

Will new planning rules deter or encourage new building? - Credit: Archant

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said he did not have strong views on the subject – but Housing Secretary Michael Gove has said giving the public a greater say in the planning process will build support for new housing developments.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday is expected to enable local communities in England to stage referendums over the style and size of extensions, new homes and conversions on their street.

Planning has proved a divisive issue for the Conservative government because it is difficult to reconcile the differing views of its supporters.

There is concern that the lack of new homes has pushed the price of property up so high that it is unaffordable in many parts of the country – the ambition of owning your own home is now seen as being unachievable by many.

However, plans for large-scale housing developments have provoked opposition, especially if the proposals are in greenbelt or rural areas.

Opposition to proposals to build large numbers of new homes in the Chesham and Amersham area in Buckinghamshire was one of the main factors that led to the Conservatives losing a by-election there last year to the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Gove is struggling to reform planning rules so it is easier to build new homes - but it is still possible to protect areas of land that his party's natural supporters do not want to see concreted over.