The mayor of Watford has written to the housing secretary calling for councils to be given more powers over planning - but the government is instead proposing a complete overhaul of the planning system which could see developments get automatic permission.

Government plans for a radical shake-up of a "complex and outdated planning system" are due to be announced this week, in a bid to speed up the building of new homes.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has proposed a complete overhaul of a system that 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".

Part of the 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.

Mr Jenrick said: "For too long home ownership has remained out of reach for too many, as a complex and outdated planning system has failed to keep up with the needs of our country.

"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."

Watford Observer:

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. Credit: PA

The new plans will focus on quality and design, the department said, and be inspired by the idea of design codes and pattern books that built the picturesque city of Bath, village of Bournville and district of Belgravia in London.

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

The government plans appear to be a blow to the mayor and councillors in Watford, who are hoping for greater powers themselves on what can and can't be built, with Watford seeing its housing targets tripled in recent years.

Watford Observer:

1,200 homes were granted permission by the council in St Albans Road including a 28-storey tower

After a motion was unanimously passed at a council meeting in July, Watford's mayor Peter Taylor wrote to Mr Jenrick to push for more powers to local councils to reject inappropriate development.

Mr Taylor said: "Everyone deserves a decent, good quality home, particularly people who find themselves priced out of the housing market in Watford. It is vital that decisions about our town are made here. We must be able to reject inappropriate development and challenge unrealistic targets imposed by central government.

"We should have the power to force developers to provide better infrastructure for our town before we have new buildings here. Government loopholes that are used by developers to avoid building affordable homes for local residents must end.

"The system has to change and I am pleased that councillors from all political parties have joined me in sending that message to the government."