LETTER: Fight for Localism we were promised

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Some readers have asked what our local MP has done to counter the risk of speculative development and the following resume might be helpful.

It all started with a Tory manifesto titled, ‘Invitation to Join the Government of Britain, to give communities greater control over planning, by abolishing the power of Planning Inspectors (PI) to rewrite local plans’.

Francis Maude reinforced the principle (in a letter dated 19 March 2013) saying that that if planning decisions are taken away ‘from local people, it not only breeds distrust in the planning system, but leads to severe lack of protection of important resources like the countryside’.

However we then found that the PI had be given an excuse to permit speculative planning applications, where the Local Plan did not include unrealistic population driven, building targets (650pa for HD).

Accordingly LPAs could not win, because they have little control over building programmes, whilst developers were left with an open goal, as evidenced by their many speculative applications.

I drew this to Mr Maude’s attention and he responded in the County Times on May 23 2013, acknowledging that LPAs were indeed vulnerable to being overridden by a PI, i) if they were behind their (unattainable) Regional Plan target (650pa) or ii) because they did not have an adopted Local Plan, including a similar target.

What he did not acknowledge is that LPAs had been put in a Catch 22 position, leaving developers to have a field day.

The risk to the countryside could be properly managed, if Planning Minister Nick Boles would instruct the PI to allow targets to be adjusted, based on experience with economic growth and I have repeatedly urged him to do that.

In the meantime, local MPs can only wring their hands and recommend that Local and Neighbourhood Plans be completed as soon as possible, knowing that such plans afford little protection to the countryside, for as long as they contain unrealistic targets.

I urge them and other representatives of the people, to confront this spin and deception and to fight for the Localism that we were promised.

Roger Arthur

(UKIP) Horsham district councillor for Chanctonbury ward and prospective parliamentary candidate for Horsham

North Street, Horsham