Democracy in local authority planning no longer exists

March 25, 2018 10:50 AM


The Secretary of State's decision to allow the Howard of Effingham / Berkeley Homes appeal shows that there is no longer democracy in our planning system. Officers, councillors, planners, specialists and experts have all had their opinions overruled by one man, the planning inspector, with the full support of the Conservative government. The decision allows the building of 295 houses and an enlarged new school all on Green Belt land and totally contrary to Effingham's recently agreed Neighbourhood Plan.

The current planning white paper is actually irrelevant, since the threat of unacceptable development is happening now. Localism is non existent, and Neighbourhood Plans are irrelevant. This comes at a time when Housing Minister Dominic Raab has just announced, on 20 March, that free advice will be available to communities 'to help make their neighbourhood vision a reality' and 'to guide them through the process of preparing a neighbourhood plan.'

Effingham's Lib Dem borough councillor Liz Hogger commented "The hypocrisy of this Tory government is breath-taking. Government ministers are loudly proclaiming their support for neighbourhood planning and vowing to protect the green belt, then just days later the Secretary of State overrules Effingham's Neighbourhood Plan and agrees that a shortage of housing land should carry more planning weight than protecting the green belt.

"Our Neighbourhood Plan aims for 50 new homes to meet local need. Instead Effingham is faced with 295 new houses, the urbanisation of a historic rural village, and the destruction of green belt. All this with the excuse that 'enabling development' is needed to fund a new school, since government funding is not available. This government prefers to sacrifice our green belt to developers rather than funding schools properly."

Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr Caroline Reeves said "Local authorities spend huge amounts of time, energy and money on the preparation and detailed consideration of planning applications, and then again for appeal hearings which all transpires to be irrelevant as the government rides roughshod over the work.

Whether you are in urban, green belt or countryside areas of the borough it would seem that government ideology is at odds with the needs and understanding of our local communities. Effingham will be drowned by a new housing development on the green belt and the town centre will suffer a new development at the train station which is more suited to a city than a county town - we are all targets in this new world of planning by government inspectors. The Tory localism agenda turns out to be a complete sham. Local democracy is under threat as never before."

Guildford Liberal Democrats continue to believe that planning decisions are best made locally, and led by the real needs of local communities, whether in town or countryside.


NOTE: Dominc Raab statement is on