The MP for Epping Forest has welcomed a proposed overhaul of planning systems but warned local authorities must continue to play a “decisive role”.

Dame Eleanor Laing, who has represented the constituency since 1997, welcomed Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick’s plans to change the system which has been in place since just after the Second World War, and one he said has failed to keep up with the needs of the country.

However, Epping Forest District Council has refused to reveal whether councillors or the planning committee are for or against the changes, only revealing the council will be responding to the consultation and not the nature of its response.

Part of the proposed new process will involve quicker development on land which has been designated “for renewal”, with a “permission in principle” approach that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said will balance the need for proper checks with a speedier way of working.

The other two categories will see land designated for growth where new homes, hospitals and schools will be allowed automatically to empower development, while areas of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt will come under the protection category.

The new process will be done through democratic local agreement, be clearer and cut out red tape, the Government said.

Ms Laing, also a deputy speaker of the House of Commons, said: There is no doubt that our current planning procedures need to be brought up to date so I welcome the Government's determination to do that. It is vital, however, that local authorities continue to play a decisive role in the granting of planning permission.

“This is particularly important in an area such as Epping Forest where we work hard to get the right balance between the need to provide homes for an increasing population while at the same time preserving our precious Green Belt and protecting our rural environment and our unique ancient Forest."

“For too long home ownership has remained out of reach for too many, as a complex and outdated planning system has failed to keep up with the needs of our country", Mr Jenrick said.

“I am completely overhauling the system so we can build more good quality, attractive and affordable homes faster – and more young families can finally have the key to their own home.

“We will build environmentally-friendly homes that will not need to be expensively retrofitted in the future, homes with green spaces and new parks at close hand, where tree-lined streets are provided for in law, where neighbours are not strangers.”

The Government said the new approach will work through an interactive and accessible map-based online system “placing planning at the fingertips”.

The changes come after the Prime Minister promised last month to “build, build, build” his way out of the coronavirus crisis.

Boris Johnson said he would slash “newt-counting” red tape in the planning system to speed up delivery of infrastructure projects and homes.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said it is ready to work with the Government to ensure any reforms bring improvement and added it is vital the right protections are in place through a locally-led planning system.

LGA chairman James Jamieson said: “Any suggestion that planning is a barrier to housebuilding is a myth. Nine in 10 planning applications are approved by councils while more than a million homes given planning permission in the last decade have not yet been built.

“The planning system needs to be able to ensure developments are of a high standard, are built in the right places, include affordable homes and are supported by infrastructure that provides enough schools, promotes greener and more active travel, and tackles climate change.”

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