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Local people must shape local planning

April 19, 2021 8:49 PM

new housesLiberal Democrats believe that local people must be able to shape planning and house building in the best interests of their community and the environment.

The Conservative government's white paper on Planning for the Future is not good for Bucks. It risks developers building the wrong thing, in the wrong place, and with no local control.

The government's proposals threaten localism to its core, and constitute the single biggest threat to local democracy, taking away much of our ability to shape our communities.

We know there are better, fairer ways of planning our towns, villages and countryside. Here's what our candidates believe and will fight for if you decide to end more than a century of Tory government of this county. They own the planning mistakes of the past. They were always in charge.

  1. Take back control of planning in your area.

This area needs more houses - particularly those that are truly affordable - but we want local people to choose where and what is built rather than have decisions forced upon us.

We'll make sure the Tories do not "build, build, build" the wrong thing, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The government looks set to impose huge numbers of houses on this area, not only to meet its own needs but the needs of Slough which is under pressure to expand to the north.

That's why we will defend the Supplementary Planning Policy which has ensured local consultation and enabled local planning to be shaped by the community. The white paper proposals could sweep away local achievements like the zoning around Burnham Beeches.

  1. Protecting your right to object.

Right now, it takes only 11 residents to apply for a planning application to be reviewed. The Tories want to take that right away and leave objections to the local councillors.

We want neighbours to continue to be informed about nearby property development. The Conservatives don't. The changes outlined in a recent County consultation could be a blow to the fundamental right of each of us to have our say.

  1. We want a build program that generates affordable and eco-friendly housing.

We want to build 1,000 affordable and eco-friendly social homes as soon as possible - with the right partners and not the greediest developers. We don't want families to leave our villages because they can't afford to live here.

Our building programme would meet local design requirements set out in locally generated Neighbourhood Plans by using eco-friendly building materials and avoiding the soulless identikit dwellings of the past. Affordable does not mean dull. Eco-friendly need not mean unaffordable.

  1. We insist on independence, fairness and consistency.

The white paper strips out the safeguard of an inspector's scrutiny of a Local Plan. We believe independent inspectors must review Local Plans to ensure rigour and consistency. This vital safeguard takes the politics out of decision-making by sense-checking the assumptions and ensuring co-operation between neighbouring authorities.

Fairness and consistency also require seek the more detailed categorisation of land that we have already. The Government seeks to impose just three land categories: protected, reserved and growth. The clumsy designations risk big mistakes where land should be protected. It is not just the Liberal Democrats complaining about this but planning schools and professional bodies.

In Buckinghamshire the land has undergone a field-by-field study, so we are well placed to be far more specific about our housing sites.

  1. We urge the Government to review the use of commercial brownfield and existing offices as soon as future needs emerge after COVID-19.

We need to make sure the Tories do not "build, build, build" the wrong thing, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

The country has not recovered yet from the pandemic, and we are not clear whether the call to get everybody back in the office, or if the working from home trend will prevail. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has speculated whether London will retain its dominance or will economic growth spread across the country more evenly?

In planning terms this has a fundamental bearing on the strategy for office space, housing, transport, protecting green space, even pension trust investment. Planning needs to stay ahead of the emerging trends and always has needed a crystal ball. You've got to build something, somewhere and you've got to build the right thing, the right way.

Our environmental policy makes it clear that we are dedicated to protecting our Green Belt, improving air quality and restoring our woodlands. Sustainable solutions benefit people, the environment and the economy. While this does not fit easily with the Tory development free for all, it is possible to develop a sustainable plan which achieves the right long-term solutions.

We are all about local democracy and decision-making. Your opinion matters. We want to to hear your views on planning and whether you think that you and your neighbours should have a greater say on what is built in your area? Or would you prefer developers just to build, build, build as the Prime Minister proposes?

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