Opposition councillors have called for a “robust” response to proposed planning changes that could see them lose oversight of developments.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats called on the council to oppose the Government’s ‘Planning for the Future’ proposals, warning a “bonfire of planning regulation” would lead to “even more overdevelopment in Barnet”.

Published in August, the changes would see planning applications based on pre-approved ‘design codes’ in areas earmarked for growth given automatic outline permission. Areas designated for ‘renewal’ would see a presumption in favour of some developments.

While residents would have a say in the drawing up of design codes and location of ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ and ‘protection’ areas, the shake-up could lead to less scrutiny of planning applications by councillors and members of the public.

At a meeting of the policy and resources committee on Thursday, Cllr Ross Houston (Labour, West Finchley) tabled a motion to oppose the planning overhaul in a “robust response” to the Government’s consultation.

Cllr Houston said: “I think these proposals take away the ability of local councillors and residents to have a specific say on what happens in their local area in terms of planning – and I think that is a really bad move.

“This is entirely the wrong approach to planning, and I think it is unnecessary.”

Cllr Houston explained that rather than “rip it up and start again”, the current planning system could be amended to iron out inefficiencies. He claimed the system was being clogged up by developers “sitting on sites” where planning permission had already been granted.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Gabriel Rozenberg (Garden Suburb) backed Cllr Houston’s motion and asked council leader Cllr Dan Thomas which parts of the proposals he was concerned about.

Cllr Thomas (Conservative, Finchley Church End) said the council should be able to appeal against a formula for housing need that could see Barnet set a target of building around 5,700 homes a year.

He added that residents needed to have input and the council should be able to determine building height and design.

But he pointed out that the proposals are still at an early stage of development – and some could be beneficial. He said they could give developers “more certainty” that applications are acceptable, while local people would have input in the drawing up of design codes.

Cllr Thomas said: “It is early days. I don’t believe in megaphone diplomacy and politics by press release. I am going to have a sensible conversation with Government and deliver a considered consultation response.”

But Cllr Rozenberg claimed the current local plan process gives developers certainty and is a “genuine response to the needs of the borough”.

He said: “The idea that a national, one-size-fits all plan be put in and we have mere flexibility over which zones to allocate parts of our borough to seems to make a nonsense of any kind of localism.”

Cllr Thomas said: “I really do agree with the sentiment that the planning system should be slicker, quicker and less complicated, because development in this country – site assembly, buying land, going for planning – can take a very long time.

“One of the intentions of the white paper is to speed things up, and communities will benefit from that. There are parts of the country and borough that need investment and development, and the whole process takes too long.”

The council leader added that residents’ groups and societies are welcome to send their views on the Planning for the Future proposals to the council.

Cllr Houston’s motion, backed by Labour and the Lib Dems, was defeated when Conservative members of the committee voted against.

The Planning for the Future consultation is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future