Lack of democracy in housing planning


A chara, – Robin Mandal (Property, July 24th) is right to decry the lack of democracy in the use of strategic infrastructure provisions for private sector largescale housing. Indeed, the larger the project the greater the need for more engagement by society in the planning process.

There is a case to be made for reducing the bureaucratic burden on certain classes of development: we could, for instance, allow all conversion of office space to residential use to be exempted development (exempted from the requirement for planning permission): this might encourage the re-use as residences of so much of the upper floors of buildings on our historic streets, and might also discourage the demolition of office buildings from the 1960s and 1970s , which, in other countries, have been so successfully converted.

To further expedite the process, we could allow certification for fire purposes of smaller buildings (to be occupied by fewer than 20 people, say) to be fully addressed under the existing BCAR regime, without a prior fire officer’s certificate: fire departments are already under-resourced; such a dispensation should result in a better deployment of public and private resources.

Taken together, the planning and regulatory measures outlined above have the potential to transform the delivery of housing, sustainably. – Yours, etc,