South Downs MP demands action to avert planning policy ‘environmental disaster’

MHRA-28-05-12 Minister May72'Pictured, Nick Herbert MP, Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice,
MHRA-28-05-12 Minister May72'Pictured, Nick Herbert MP, Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice,

An ‘environmental disaster’ will loom over the Horsham district if the spirit of ‘localism’ in planning is not heeded by Government , one MP has warned.

Speaking in Parliament last Wednesday during an Adjournment Debate Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, demanded that local people be given a voice in determining the scale of development in their areas.

Mr Herbert said the Government needed to strike a balance between providing housing and protecting the countryside as well as keeping promises to local people.

He said: “In one district council in my constituency, Horsham, a rate of house building is now being required that has never been achieved in the area, even in the boom years.

“It is good news for the developers, who will not be developing for years but will secure planning permissions on greenfield sites. By setting up a formula that fails to give weight to unbuilt planning permissions, many of which are on brownfield sites, we are effectively moving not to the brownfield-first site policy that we should have but to a greenfield-first policy.

“That is an environmental disaster.”

He added: “In my constituency, the parish councillors —good people— are all volunteers who have taken a considerable amount of local effort and, in some cases, risk to promote the plans, while speculative applications are coming in that are being granted either because the district council wants to grant them or, in many cases, because it fears that they will be upheld by the inspectorate.

“Such speculative applications are often completely contrary to what is wanted in the parishes under the neighbourhood plan. The consequence is that faith in the neighbourhood planning process, which could be so powerful and will deliver the local and affordable housing that we need, is in danger of draining away.”

Planning minister Nick Boles said: “I therefore urge communities not to lose heart.

“Childbirth is a painful process and gestation is not without its pains and difficulties, but the process resulting in local communities having local plans and neighbourhoods having neighbourhood plans will, I promise, be one in which everyone feels that they are in control of development in their area in a way that was never true under Labour or previous Conservative Governments.

“We are involved in a revolution. Revolutions are not quick or painless, but this revolution is gathering pace and beginning to work.”