Letter: principles of Localism alive and well?

An open letter to Francis Maude MP

Dear Mr Maude

Despite the advent of Localism, many doubt their ability to influence Local Plans (LPs), in relation to new house building.

Whilst the Government Inspectorate must pass the plans, many have not been approved, apparently because they do not include enough houses.

That may be because the Planning Inspector tends to consider population growth as the main driving factor, when assessing an LA’s 20 year projections.

On that basis, HDC should plan for a 5 year backlog of 2,300 dwellings (460 pa) whilst embarking on a 20 year target of 575 pa.

Of course, developers will build no more than they can sell at a reasonable profit & it is inconceivable that an average of 1,000 dwellings pa might be built in the District over the next 5 years, whilst the economy is struggling to recover.

That 6,000 planning applications have already been approved is immaterial. The fact is that LAs are expected to plan for many more houses than will be built in practice and an excessive backlog is almost certain to remain.

You will know that the completion of Local Plans has been delayed by the introduction of new legislation, such as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) & the need for Neighbourhood Plans

(NP), all of which has extended the time for which our beautiful countryside remains vulnerable to speculative development.

Also, whilst we are told that NPs will have real power, there is little evidence so far that they will have any material impact in countering inappropriate development & time will have to be allowed for reiteration between LPs & NPs.

So, many fear that “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, will continue to be used to force through Planning Applications, because either a significant backlog remains, or because LP/NPs have not been completed.

If local people are denied any influence on planning decisions in that way, then it is likely to breed distrust in the planning system, whilst leaving the countryside without protection.

If you genuinely share that concern, then you will want to introduce a 1 year moratorium, against “presumption in favour”, allowing time for LP & NPs to be completed properly.

That would demonstrate that the principles of Localism are alive & well, that it is not based on a meaningless promise and I urge you to do it.

Roger Arthur