Reading councillors have united in criticism against “power grab” planning reforms that could take away much of the role of residents and local councils.

The government ran an eight-week public consultation on the proposals, which ended on October 1, describing them as “the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War”.

The proposed reforms include plans to build 300,000 homes a year in England and a new formula that determines how many homes should be built in each area of the country, as well as changes to affordable housing.

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Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) Policy committee approved the council’s highly critical response to the proposals on Monday, September 28, with cross-party opposition to the government’s plans.

Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Planning, said the reforms are a “demolition job” and amounts to “a wholesale centralisation of much of planning”.

He said market forces are the real reason for the lack of housebuilding in England and the government has “completely ignored” this.

More than 380,000 homes were granted planning permission in England between 2011 and 2019 and remain unbuilt.

In Reading, there are nearly 4,000 dwellings with planning permission but not started at March 2020, while almost 9,000 homes are earmarked in the local plan.

Cllr Page said: “The planning system has delivered hundreds of thousands of planning consents for new houses and flats across the country that remain unbuilt.

“It is not the planning system that is in any way inhibiting housebuilding. It is market forces.

“Housebuilders do not wish to flood the market because that might bring house prices down and make them somewhat affordable, so they hoard them.”

He said plans to limit affordable housing contributions to developments of up to 40 or 50 homes are “the most devastating of the proposals”.

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Tory councillor David Stevens said: “Initially I could see the issue they were trying to confront – the problem of the lack houses being built – and yet they seem to have gone off on a complete tangent in their analysis of the problem and proposed solution.

“I find it quite extraordinary that a government department can successfully unify all major parties, certainly at a local level, in resistance against what is being planned.”

He also questioned why the government had not looked at what other countries do.

Lib Dem councillor Ricky Duveen called the reforms are a “developer’s charter” and said they have “put the backs up” of cross-party councillors across England.

He said he thinks the reforms will be “buried” because the weight of opinion against the plans amongst Tory councillors is so strong.

“The idea that we don’t the need local authority and or even local public opinion to be taken into account when we are building new houses is really not acceptable.

“The presumption of being able to build is going to make our local plans superfluous.

“It goes against everything we have been trying to do. This is dreamt up in Westminster by people who have no idea what local authorities do or want.”