Planning law breakthrough

Last night, in the House of Commons, what I believe will be seen as a milestone event took place.  The Government agreed to amend planning law to introduce a duty on local authorities to meet the housing needs of disabled people.  The amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill was tabled by Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire who worked with Aspire, Habinteg and the Papworth Trust to come up with its wording and frame her case.

Heidi’s amendment “would require local planning authorities to “consider” the needs of elderly and disabled people when identifying strategic priorities for the development and use of their land.”  In his response to Heidi, Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell said, “Given that we support the spirit of her amendments, if she is happy not to press them, I am minded to accept their thrust and work with her to come back in the Lords with amendments approved by parliamentary counsel that take forward the principle of what she has been trying to achieve.”

Opportunities to improve planning law in the interest of disabled people occur pretty infrequently.  So when our attempt to amend the Housing and Planning Act failed earlier this year, I really thought we’d missed our chance. This means that for the first time, local authorities will have a specific legal duty under planning law, to ensure they plan housing for disabled people.  So, when their local plans are being approved by the Planning Inspector, they will have to demonstrate how they have met this requirement.  It will also give disabled people and their organisations a legal hook on which to hold local authorities accountable in addressing their housing needs. 

Aspire is hugely grateful to Heidi Allen for her commitment to this issue and to Gavin Barwell for getting on board.  We look forward to working with Heidi and the Government in shaping this new duty and its supporting regulations and guidance, including any related proposals within the forthcoming Housing White paper.

Andy Shipley, Aspire's Policy Manager