Westminster Column 24 February 2010
This week David Cameron published the Conservative Party’s proposals for reform of the planning system. With over-development and ‘garden grabbing’ such a concern for us in Sutton I wanted to outline some of our proposals. Indeed for many in Sutton this is the most important issue facing our town – with most of the problems stemming from John Prescott’s dreadful decision back in 1997 to allow peoples’ gardens to be designated as Brown Land for development purposes.
More recently, Labour’s introduction of Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Frameworks through the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act of 2004 has been a complete failure.
The confusion and complexity created by the new system is such that the Government has had to pass another two Acts to try and rectify the consequences of their own defective legislation. So we have now had three major pieces of planning law pushed through Parliament in the last five years.
On top of this, the Government’s approach of retaining strong central control over planning means that, in many cases, people feel that they have no say over development taking place in their areas. Local communities feel that their views are ignored and that they are having development imposed upon them. People feel thoroughly disempowered.
A Conservative Government would tackle the scourge of ‘garden grabbing’ and over-development in residential neighbourhoods as well as increase councils and police powers to tackle unauthorised sites and illegal trespass.
The planning system is vital for a strong economy, for an attractive and sustainable environment, and for a successful democracy. At present, the planning system in England achieves none of these goals. It is broken.
Under our proposals, a Conservative Government would use an innovative ‘Open Source’ approach to overhaul how planning works. This will decentralise and streamline the planning system and allow it to focus on promoting sustainable development that local communities actually want for their neighbourhood.
We would abolish the undemocratic and ineffective tier of regional planning overseen by unelected regional quangos. These regional plans are ripping up the Green Belt across the country despite Gordon Brown’s pledge to protect it ‘robustly.’
We would allow local communities to create ‘bottom-up’ local plans, helping local residents shape and protect the character of their neighbourhood. And we want to maintain national Green Belt protection and other special protections for wildlife and the countryside, whilst allowing sustainable development elsewhere in accordance with the local plan. This is incredibly important to Sutton.
If you are interested, I hope you can spare the time to read our new planning proposals in full at: www.tinyurl.com/opensourceplanning.