Last week the Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee published a good report into how the Government’s planning reforms have been working.
The Committee welcomed the simplification which the reforms have brought but suggested that the National Planning Policy Framework needs strengthening - not abolishing - to deal with some concerns.
These were very much the same issues that I have been raising: giving proper weight to the environment, and dealing with speculative development applications in our villages that are running against local plans being put in place.
In the Commons, as a strong supporter of localism and neighbourhood planning in particular, I welcomed the report, and urged the Minister to pay attention to the recommendations, to respond to them constructively and as soon as possible.
I particularly urged him to deal with the problem of the loophole that is allowing speculative development applications, with developers circling villages like hawks, waiting to pounce on greenfield sites that are not in identified local or neighbourhood plans, and as a result undermining localism.
I’ve also just written to the Secretary of State urging him to call in a speculative development application between Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks. I’m concerned that once again this will erode the green space between villages and run contrary to emerging neighbourhood plans where housing will be agreed in local referendums.
Eric Pickles has called in other applications in our area to support neighbourhood planning, and I hope he will this one.
This week we heard from the Planning Inspector who has disappointingly raised Horsham District Council’s housing number, but has endorsed the proposed development north of Horsham and through neighbourhood plans in villages.
There was Christmas cheer when he completely dismissed the proposal by Mayfield for a new town between Henfield and Sayers Common. It’s time for this developer to realise that their unsustainable plan is being comprehensively rejected by everyone who sees it.
While this is good news on the Mayfield front, I still have concerns about the role of the Inspectorate.
When the Commons returns in the New Year I will be moving amendments to the Infrastructure Bill to restrict the role of, and abolish altogether, the Planning Inspectorate, and to close the loophole that’s allowing speculative development in our villages.
Localism can work very well if we allow it. I wish all my constituents a very Happy Christmas.
If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.