Neighbours will be given a vote on what new houses look like under government plans

·3-min read
Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, has set a target for developers to build 300,000 homes per year - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, has set a target for developers to build 300,000 homes per year - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Neighbours will be given a vote on the design of housing developments on their road, in an olive branch to Tory rebels who oppose the Government’s planning reforms, The Telegraph has learnt.

Ministers are rewriting the Planning Bill after about 100 Conservative MPs suggested they would vote against it, arguing that its attempts to increase housebuilding would shut out the voice of local residents.

Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, has set a target for developers to build 300,000 homes a year, while councils have been told to draw up a plan of where they will be located.

However, in a major concession to the rebels, The Telegraph understands that Mr Jenrick will also add a new section to the Bill that will allow local people to vote on plans for development near them.

The idea, first proposed in a paper by the Policy Exchange think tank, would involve residents of a street voting on the design of new homes around them, or modification to existing buildings.

It is hoped that giving local people a say on the developments on their streets will encourage “Nimbys” to accept building works, and Tory MPs to vote for the planning reforms.

Many Conservatives blamed the Planning Bill for the party’s shock defeat to the Liberal Democrats in the Chesham and Amersham by-election in June, and fear more seats in the south of England could follow if the plans are not diluted before the next election.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government is planning to use “neighbourhood development orders”, an obscure planning tool, to enshrine the street-level groups in law.

It is thought that groups of residents will be allowed to band together and suggest a building development for their road, such as extension of one storey to every home.

The idea is supported by many of the Bill's critics in Parliament. This week, a group of Tory MPs formally proposed edits to the Planning Bill to include street votes.

A government source said: “We want communities to help set the rules for how their own streets should develop so that development reflects local views. The Planning Bill will reflect this, and we are exploring the idea of neighbourhood development orders being adopted at street level.

“We have listened to colleagues over the past year and the proposals for reforming the planning system that we will bring forward are sensible and pragmatic, and will change our outdated planning system for the better.”

Officials point to a 2012 decision by Camden Council to allow a mansard roof to be added to a row of houses, on the condition they were all built at the same time and in the same style.

Mr Jenrick hopes to make it easier for “street votes” to determine the style of developments in this way.

The news comes after it was reported that the Housing Secretary intended to water down his planning reforms, removing a “zonal” system of development and conservation areas and penalties for councils that do not oversee enough development.

A source close to Mr Jenrick said final decisions on the bill had not yet been taken.

Bob Blackman, a Tory MP who has criticised the Planning Bill White Paper, said the addition of street votes was welcome but would not be the “be-all and end-all” in averting Conservative rebels.

He called for Mr Jenrick to submit a draft version of the Planning Bill to Parliament for pre-legislative scrutiny, to allow MPs to air their thoughts on the measures.

“It's a starting point,” he said. “We are hearing different stories about different bits being dropped, but it'd be very helpful if the Government came forward with a draft bill now, as opposed to ‘Well here it is, now take it or leave it’.”

The Conservative MPs Simon Clarke, David Simmonds, Sir Bernard Jenkin, Sir John Hayes and Kevin Hollinrake have also backed the proposals.

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