Just before Christmas (17 December) a House of Commons debate took place on the controversial Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which aims to ‘remove red tape’ (read yet more de-regulation for developers and more misery for the people).
Amendments by Conservative MP Nick Herbert, relating to only allowing development if there was sufficient infrastructure was outvoted, as were a series of amendments by Labour’s Roberta Blackman Woods.
Mr Herbert previously wrote an editorial in the Telegraph, very concerned about ministers pushing of new housing projects, regardless of whether the sewers, schools or drainage systems could cope. He and a group of colleagues expressed their unhappiness at the new Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which appears to be largely about centralising decisions, if local authorities have the temerity to refuse large-scale development schemes they believe to be inappropriate.
As Mrs Blackman Woods commented, it makes a complete mockery of the Conservative localism mantra, which to my mind has been an utter stitch up, for the past two years.
The Growth and Infrastructure Bill will create a fast-track for large-scale business and commercial projects which will allow decisions to be taken within 12 months.
Decisions on business and retail parks in future may be taken by the secretary of state in the first instance.
It will allow developers to submit plans directly to the national Planning Inspectorate where councils have a track record of poor performance.
The bill will relax rules on developers to deliver social housing, and make it easier to install broadband infrastructure.
It will also make it harder for residents to use “village green” rules to prevent development in their local area.
In an area such as East Devon, which has already fallen at the first hurdle with the National Planning Policy Framework and may well be about to embark on a year of planning chaos, the bill will cause further damage to areas where there is a lack of school places, flood problems, a shortage of medical services and clogged roads.
It is hard to imagine how much more damage this government can wreak on this country.
I urge you to write to your MP about the bill, asking him to do his utmost to amend the worst aspects before it is too late.
Countryside campaigners have been opposed to the bill from the outset. Here is a previous blog, from a BBC news story, for information.