• Govt planning reforms in disarray after backbench rebellion

    17th April 2013 | News | Claire
  • The first article is below and here – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/greenpolitics/planning/9998215/Government-planning-reforms-in-disarray-after-backbench-rebellion.html

    The Government’s planning policy was in disarray today after ministers were forced to back down over a scheme to make it easier to build extensions and conservatories.

    Faced with a major Coalition rebellion, Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, announced a “rethink” of the proposals, which would allow people to extend their homes by as much as 26ft without planning consent – double the current limit.

    The Government narrowly saw off the rebellion in a Commons vote only after Mr Pickles appealed for “help” and “assistance” from his backbenchers to take the reforms forward.
    He offered backbenchers a “compromise” but faced anger when he was unable to tell MPs how the Government plans may change in the coming weeks.

    But despite making the concession, the Government only won a Commons vote to disagree with a Lords amendment giving power to local authorities to opt out of the reforms by 286 votes to 259, a majority of 27.

    The plans will now return to the House of Lords where they will be debated further.

    The climbdown will be seen as a major blow to the Government. George Osborne, the Chancellor, has championed the scheme as a way to boost the economy.

    However, there has been an outcry from town halls amid fears the plans will allow unsightly building to go ahead in middle class suburbs across England and create a surge in rows between neighbours.
    Last month members of the House of Lords voted through an amendment tabled by Lord True, the leader of Richmond Council, that would allow local authorities to exempt themselves from the relaxed planning rules.

    More than 20 MPs, including former Liberal Democrat minister Paul Burstow, had threatened to vote against the Government scheme.

    Zac Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond Park, has successfully led a growing backbench rebellion over the controversial issue.

    Mr Pickles said he was “aggrieved” that “people who I would normally look to for advice and guidance and for support on the issue of planning…have their concerns”.

    Mr Pickles was forced to appeal to MPs in the Commons not to vote against the Government in favour of Lord True’s amendment.
    He said he wanted the issue to go back to the House of Lords so that “consensus” can be reached.

    “I need the help,” he told MPs. “I need the assistance to arrive at that consensus.”

    However, Tory backbenchers Mr Goldsmith and Stewart Jackson said they were still minded to vote against the Government.

    Anne Main, the Conservative MP for St Albans, and Bob Blackman, the MP for Harrow East, had indicated that they would back Mr Goldsmith’s bid.

    Tory Cheryl Gillan, the former Welsh Secretary, said: “Will you forgive me if I want to wait to see what your proposals are because this has caused a great deal of grief to my district council, Chilterns District Council and many of our district councils across the country?

    “I am afraid we are not going to believe what you say at that despatch box until we see it in black and white.”

    Mr Jackson, the MP for Peterborough, said: “We have seldom had a situation where so many Conservative councillors and councils and other bodies have united to say this is very bad legislation, it offends against the principle of localism.”

    A number of Government ministers including Mr Boles, Mr Osborne and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling have been lobbied by their local councils over the unpopular measures.

    The Local Government Association has warned that it could lead to tens of thousands of extra extensions every year, which could increase the risk of flooding across the country as gardens are paved over.

    Speaking after the vote Mr Pickles said: “We remain committed to making it easier for families to improve their home, by removing excessive planning red tape.

    “This amendment from the Lords was flawed, and we are pleased that the Commons has rejected it. We want to establish a broad consensus on these common sense reforms. We will listen carefully to the representations made, and be responding with constructive comments in due course”