An MP has raised “serious concerns” that the Government’s bid to fast-track the planning process could lead to more high-density development in Barnet.

Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers said the “removal of local decision-making” in some circumstances could lead to “too much high-density development” that local infrastructure would struggle to support.

Under proposals published on August 6 by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, planning applications based on pre-approved ‘design codes’ in areas earmarked for growth would be given automatic outline permission. Areas designated for ‘renewal’ would see a presumption in favour of some developments.

While people would have a say in the development of design codes and location of ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ and ‘protection’ areas, the changes could lead to less scrutiny of applications by councillors and members of the public.

Barnet has already seen several large-scale developments approved in the west of the borough, and similar proposals have recently come forward for traditionally more suburban areas in the north and east.

MP for Chipping Barnet Theresa Villiers said she had “serious concerns” about aspects of the proposals, “especially the removal of local decision-making in certain circumstances”.

“I fear that this could lead to too much high-density development which our local infrastructure would struggle to support,” Ms Villiers explained. “I recognise the need for more homes, but these need to be in tune with the character of the surrounding neighbourhood.

“After the crisis of recent months, we particularly need to bear in mind the importance of building homes with gardens.

“I am raising my concerns at the highest level of Government with the goal of ensuring that these issues are addressed. A key goal for me is to ensure that the final outcome of this reform does not undermine local input into planning decisions.”

MP for Finchley and Golders Green Mike Freer welcomed the proposals to reform planning, saying that “to allow local communities to have a say on deciding which land should be developed, and how, is important”.

Times Series: MP for Finchley and Golders Green Mike FreerMP for Finchley and Golders Green Mike Freer

Mr Freer suggested the changes could block what he called “massive overdevelopment” at locations such as Finchley Central Underground Station, where Transport for London is planning up to 560 homes.

“Local people realise we need to build new homes, but they mustn’t destroy the nature of what makes the area attractive in the first place,” he added.

“It is possible to increase density and the number of people living on a redeveloped site without piling people on top of each other. It is possible to build quality apartments alongside traditional family homes as long as the design echoes the suburban architecture alongside it.”

But Mr Freer criticised separate changes to permitted development rights that would allow people to build two extra storeys on top of existing post-war buildings without full planning permission, describing it as “a recipe for conflict and a reduction in the quality of our local housing stock”.

When the planning overhaul was announced, ministers said it would “transform a system that has long been criticised for being too sluggish in providing housing for families, key workers and young people”.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Our complex planning system has been a barrier to building the homes people need; it takes seven years to agree local housing plans and five years just to get a spade in the ground.

“These once-in-a generation reforms will lay the foundations for a brighter future, providing more homes for young people and creating better quality neighbourhoods and homes across the country. We will cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before. Planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process.

“As we face the economic effects of the pandemic, now is the time for decisive action and a clear plan for jobs and growth. Our reforms will create thousands of jobs, lessen the dominance of big builders in the system, providing a major boost for small building companies across the country.”

The Government’s Planning for the Future consultation is available here.