LETTER: Protecting ‘soul of West Sussex’

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Our Conservative MPs and councillors have been congratulating themselves on the Queen’s Speech announcing, ‘further reform of the planning system …’.

However, it transpires the Government’s new Infrastructure Bill removes control for decisions to sell, or develop, publicly owned land from the public sector.

In short, before long, a private company will have the power to sell publicly owned land for whatever it likes – and the public, democratic, say in the development of its own land will be a thing of the past.

The Infrastructure Bill has somehow managed to slip through to its Second Reading in the House of Lords, Wednesday 18th June 2014, with almost zero news coverage.

The Bill contains a clause that will end local decision making over use of publicly owned land. This will end the rights of local councils to grant, or deny, planning consent, while cancelling any rights of way or any need to ask the people of England and Wales if they mind losing their parks, playing fields, allotments, woodlands, village greens or public facilities to developers or road and rail builders.

The Infrastructure Bill contains a clause with will allow ALL public land to be privatised. No need to reference the, ‘Forestry Act 1967’ or the ‘Countryside Rights of Way Act’, or indeed any other protective law, because Schedule 3 of the Infrastructure Bill states, ‘the property, rights and liabilities that may be transferred by scheme include … property, rights and liabilities that would not otherwise be capable of being transferred or assigned’.

In plain English, this means all preceding regulations, legislation and other protections are null and void.

If this Bill is passed we will have the private sector deciding the sale price, planning requirements and development plans for all ‘publicly’ owned land.

This Conservative Government is taking our land – our communally owned parks, moors, fields, woodlands and rivers – and handing it over to the control of one, private, company and removing any democratic mandate for decision making.

These are lands and assets that have been developed, protected and maintained by public employees with public money for, in some cases, hundreds of years.

This Government is selling them off like the ‘family silver’. In addition, this Government will probably sell our land for below the market price for investment companies to sell on at a higher price. We will become tenants on our own land.

From the Government’s perspective, it’s all about speeding up planning decisions and avoiding the delay caused by local ownership of the decision making process.

The bottom line, though, is whether it is schools, hospitals or choosing what to do with our own land, this Government promised a ‘Localism Agenda’, but is delivering the greatest shift of power from locally elected people to a burgeoning, remote, Central Government since the signing of the Lisbon Treaty.

The changes in this Bill, once made, will be enormously difficult to unmake. We must not be resigned to the situation, we must insist our voice is heard and write to your Member of Parliament, insist they must oppose this Bill.

You can sign a petition at: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-land-registry-from-privatisation

You may read the Infrastructure Bill at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/infrastructure-bill

With much of the say over land development moving to the Land Registry, we come to the next issue – this Government is selling off the Land Registry to private, profit making interests.

Unfortunately, the public consultation is closed, but here is the document: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/land-registry-new-service-delivery-company, please provide feedback to your Member of Parliament.

Our, so called, Conservative Government promised ‘Localism’ when elected and they cannot blame, this betrayal, on the coalition with; David Cameron, Eric Pickles, Nick Boles and every single Tory selling our land, our future and our souls to the highest bidder while our democratic voice is ignored and silenced.

We need a general election now to remove this Government and allow us to begin protecting our green and pleasant land so we can pass on, to our descendents, this ‘soul of West Sussex’.


Arundel and South Downs UKIP Parliamentary candidate, Chanctonbury, Ashington