MP Nick Boles made a ministerial statement in Parliament on 6th March this year on local planning in a context where many Conservative-led councils have been mounting pressure on the Minister about the chaos of the present planning system.
It would be good if Cllr Dawe would explain, in the half page which you generously provide for him every fortnight (although I understand he hasn’t actually signed your Free Speech Charter), the actions he has actually taken with the Minister on our behalf.
In his statement, the Minister explained how ‘the Coalition is committed to reforming the planning system to make it simpler, clearer and easier for people to use, allowing simple, local committees to shape which developments should and should not go ahead’.
So what did Mr Boles actually say – in brief:
- Issuing robust guidance on flood risk,
- Re-affirming Green Belt protection ( NB North Horsham is not a designated green belt – but a specific strategic allocation of green space to avoid coalescence) ,
- Making clear that windfalls (such as Novartis, which is not mentioned in current HDC plan) can be counted over the whole local plan period,
- Explaining how student housing, housing for older people and the re-use of empty homes can be included when assessing housing need,
- Ensuring that infrastructure is provided to support new development, and noting how infrastructure constraints should be considered when assessing suitability of sites,
- Stressing the importance of bringing brownfield land into use and made clear that authorities do not have to allocate sites on the basis of providing the maximum possible return for landowners and developers,
- Noting that councils should also be able to consider the delivery record (or lack of) of developers or landowners,
- Encouraging joint working between local authorities, but clarifying that the duty to co-operate is not a duty to accept; we have considered and rejected the proposals of HM Opposition to allow councils to undermine Green Belt protection and dump development on their neighbours’ doorstep.
Having just experienced the complex, politically-motivated and developer-led HDC process for its strategic plan for housing and economic development, I doubt whether Cllrs Dawe, Croft, Vickers, Rae, Baldwin, Cornel and O’Connelly have any understanding of what ‘simpler, clearer and easier for people to use’ actually means.
Secrecy, whipping, retrofitting with endless consultancy reports, poor communication with the public have all made the process the exact opposite.
The Rt Hon gentleman’s statement should encourage the visiting Inspector to tell the council to go back to square one – hopefully with the May 2015 elections getting closer – a square one starting point for a wholly new set of councillors.
Avebury Close, Horsham