South Downs MP’s Commons speech - call for villages to be protected

Nick Herbert MP.
Nick Herbert MP.

MP Nick Herbert will call for villages to be protected from excessive development, and green spaces between settlements to be maintained, when he speaks in a Commons debate next week.

The Arundel & South Downs MP will also serve notice that he intends to table amendments to abolish or curtail the power of the Planning Inspectorate and ensure that local communities have control over development.

Mr Herbert has applied to speak in the Second Reading debate of the Infrastructure Bill on Monday (December 8) and will raise concerns about speculative planning applications by developers who he says are “circling our villages like vultures, looking for vulnerable green spaces to swoop on ahead of local plans being put in place by our councils.”

Last week plans for 75 homes between Storrington and Thakeham were allowed on appeal by the planning inspector, overriding the decision of Horsham District Council.

Mr Herbert met local groups from West Chiltington and Storrington on Saturday who are trying to prevent development in their villages.

The MP told them that he supported neighbourhood plans underway in the villages and would not object to housing which was agreed democratically in this process, but he was “strongly opposed” to speculative applications by developers which undermined the plans.

Mr Herbert said: “Neighbourhood planning has been a really good feature of the Localism Act, and where these plans have been finalised they have been popular and successful, giving local people control over development in their villages and protecting green spaces.

“These plans are democratically agreed in parish referendums. This has already happened in Kirdford and Arundel, two of the earliest neighbourhood plans to be adopted in the country, and others in West Sussex are in the pipeline.

“But neighbourhood planning and community support for this important process are undermined when speculative applications by developers are allowed before the plans are put in place.

“I am especially concerned when the Planning Inspectorate overrides sensible decisions by our local councils, and I intend to move amendments to curtail the power of this quango at least, and indeed to abolish it outright.

“I believe we should be maintaining the green spaces between settlements and protecting our villages from excessive development. We all understand the need for some additional housing, but this should be at reasonable levels and agreed by the local community.

“Horsham District Council has produced a responsible plan which makes substantial provision for housing, mostly through development north of Horsham rather than in our villages, and I do not think their plan should be second guessed or undermined by developers when it is on the point of going through.”

Mr Herbert will also probe proposals in the Bill to simplify procedures to allow underground drilling access 300 metres or more below private land. The MP will seek assurances that the existing permissions required for surface access to land and the strict regulatory control of fracking will be maintained.