More shortcomings of Robert Jenrick’s planning shake-up

Letters
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Getty</span>
Photograph: Getty

At least slums are cheap to live in, and dry (England’s planning changes will create ‘generation of slums’, 5 August). Developers must now be licking their lips over Robert Jenrick’s planning shake-up as the gloves come off for new developments on flood plains.

As the Guardian has pointed out (Building new homes on land prone to flooding ‘making damage worse’, 25 February), between 2013 and 2018 over 84,000 homes were built in high-risk flood zones, one in 10 of all new homes in England. This green-light planning system will accelerate those figures.

Where will the liability lie then, when thousands of lives are ruined in those homes when they do flood? Not with the council, as used to be the case, eg in the Environment Agency v Tonbridge and Malling borough council case (2005), when the council’s permission for sheltered housing on a floodplain was struck down for failing to take planning policy guidance into account.

Developers themselves will now have to step into the litigation frontline and pay, as when in Ryeford Homes v Sevenoaks district council (1989), the developer was heavily penalised for flood damages. This government will get away scot-free again, when it is their new planning and development policies that will put those families on the flood plains in the first place. Heartless.
Emeritus Professor Susan Roaf
Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh

• The rethink of the planning system fully deserves the criticisms your contributors level at it. Can I add to these by highlighting the lack of any mention of housing for rent, which must not be confused with “affordable” housing. Developers will plead that rented housing undermines financial viability. Am I being too radical in arguing for compulsory purchase of land by local authorities and housing associations from developers’ land banks, which already have planning permission for housing but are long unimplemented?
Dr Leslie Jones
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

• It’s depressing for me to not see a single mention of accessible housing or even disabled people in the consultation document on which you report, Planning for the Future.

The white paper highlights “beauty” throughout, but what’s the point of beautiful buildings if disabled people are denied access to them? This looks like a missed opportunity to promote planning for a more inclusive future.

Being a wheelchair user myself, it somewhat made me feel forgotten about. My own housing association, Habinteg, estimates that there are 400,000 disabled people in England living in homes that are neither accessible nor adapted. Planning reforms must deliver rapid gains in the number of new homes suitable for disabled people like me.
Kerry Thompson
Milton Keynes

• There is a compelling need for more truly affordable housing in the UK. But however loud and articulate the voices expressing this need are, they are unlikely to compete with a quiet word in the ear of a housing minister, by a developer, at a party funding dinner. That is one route by which the current planning system “works”. The government has a stated objective to help developers bounce back from the economic impact of coronavirus. It’s clear where their priorities lie.
Catherine Dornan
Llandrindod Wells, Powys

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