District councillor’s letter warns PM of developments

JPCT 30-07-13 S13311408x  Roger Arthur -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 30-07-13 S13311408x Roger Arthur -photo by Steve Cobb

A councillor has sent a letter to the Prime Minister to warn him that ‘MPs and Ministers will pay the price’ at the 2015 elections if action is not taken to prevent ‘inappropriate developments’.

Horsham District Councillor Roger Arthur (UKIP Chanctonbury) wrote to David Cameron last month to address the risk of developments on protected English countryside, and the empowerment of ‘un-elected planning inspectors’ over local authorities.

He wrote: “The National Trust has warned that half of English councils with greenbelt land are expecting to have to build on protected countryside, even though other brownfield sites are available.”

At a planning committee meeting on January 22, Mr Arthur backed the refusal of a planning application to build 75 homes in Storrington amid air traffic pollution complaints and flooding in the village.

Planning Officers warned councillors that a refusal could incur heavy fines from the planning inspector, but councillors stood their ground and refused the proposal under CP1 (countryside policy).

Mr Arthur continued: “The government promised in 2011 (under Localism), to abolish Labour’s Regional Strategies, putting  elected local councillors back in charge, accountable to local people via the ballot box.

“Instead in 2013, they empowered un-elected Planning Inspectors through the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), to permit speculative development, where house-building rates lag population growth and Mr Boles seems content with that.”

He had also attached his correspondence with Tory Minister Nick Boles where the UKIP councillor proposes a solution to the issues raised.

Last year Mr Boles controversially stated that countryside protection should be relaxed to allow more developments.

“If you fail to take decisive action to rectify this inequity, then it will not be local councillors, but MPs & Ministers who will pay the price at the ballot box in 2015,” added Mr Arthur.

However, the Tory Prime Minister passed on the letter to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to review.

Mr Arthur said he was ‘puzzled’ by the letter’s referral to the DCLG.

In a following letter to Mr Cameron he wrote: “I referred the matter to your good self, only after engaging with Nick Boles, whom I thought was a Minister in the DCLG. So I am a little puzzled that the matter has been referred back to that department.

“The fact is that Local Authorities (LAs) who are behind their housing targets, remain under pressure to approve speculative planning applications, often on green field and flood prone sites.

“Those unrealistic targets are based on population growth, rather than on what developers will build, leaving the Planning Inspectorate (PI) an excuse to permit speculative development, against the LA’s judgement.

“this would be an excellent opportunity to show that you are at one with the people.”

Mr Arthur is currently awaiting a further response.