In August this year, The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government launched a consultation period for its White Paper – Planning for the Future, which proposes a fundamental and wide-reaching reform of the current planning process in England.

The Consultation period has now ended and Limpsfield Parish Council has submitted its response to the proposed reforms…

The Planning for the Future consultation proposes reforms to “streamline and modernise the planning process, bring a new focus to design and sustainability, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure, and ensure more land is available for development where it is needed.”

View the White Paper here.

Limpsfield Parish Council’s Views on the White Paper

While we welcome a review of the planning system in England, as a Parish Council, with the interests of a community at heart, we believe local involvement in planning matters is extremely important in supporting appropriate development, while preserving the character of that particular area.

We therefore believe that the fundamental direction the Government seeks to take is wrong and would reduce rather than increase local involvement in the planning system and limit the ability of local communities to influence the scale and form of new development in the area in which they live or work. 

As a Council, we believe that the Government should withdraw its current proposals and work towards a system that genuinely retains and strengthens the role of local communities in determining what is right for their own areas.

We have submitted a formal response to the White Paper addressing the points we believe are lost important from a local point of view.

Our View of the Current System

The current system is broadly based on the principle that town planning decisions are taken, wherever possible, at a local level.  

Local plans are prepared by the local council, neighbourhood plans are prepared by parish councils or local groups, planning applications are determined by the local council and infrastructure needs are determined by the local council.  

This reflects the fact that each town, each village, each road and each area of countryside is different.  Each has its own character and our democracy is such that those elected locally, and therefore answerable directly to the local electorate, are considered to be in the best place to control and manage the development which takes place.   

Quite rightly, those decisions are taken in the context of national guidelines and regulations and are subject to scrutiny at a national level.  Difficult decisions have to be made and, inevitably, there will be those who do not agree with those decisions.  However, there are long-standing and effective mechanisms for ensuring that decisions can be challenged whether by appeal or, in some cases, through the courts.

The system has changed over the years, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.  Regional bodies have come and gone, county-wide structure plans have come and gone, neighbourhood plans have been introduced, the role of development management has become more limited as ‘permitted development’ rights have been extended.  

That does not mean that the system is fundamentally flawed in the way implied by the White Paper or that the problems alluded to, such as the rates of housing delivery, are actually the result of that system.  The development process is far more complex.  

There is undoubtedly scope for reform.   However, whilst couched in terms designed to suggest that the proposed changes will result in greater local democracy, the effect of those changes would, in our view, be the opposite.

Download our full response below.

NALC – National Association of Local Councils – recently hosted a presentation by Flo Churchill on the White Paper. Flo is a Chartered Town Planner with over 30 years experience, both Commercial and as a consultant to 25 local authorities from large unitaries and Metropolitan Boroughs to District and Borough Councils. She is a passionate believer in the added value that Parish and Town Councils can add to the planning process.

Download her presentation below:

If you have any questions for the Limpsfield Parish Council Planning Committee, please email with Subject: Planning.