Saddleworth and Oldham Conservative Councillors showed themselves to be out of step with party colleagues when voting against a recent motion at Oldham Council. The motion, supported by Liberal Democrat Councillors, called for the government’s recently-published proposals to radically reform the planning process to be scrapped.
Conservative Councillor Graham Sheldon spoke, and voted, against the motion arguing that: “The once in a generation reforms will lay the foundations for a brighter future for Oldham and Saddleworth”, but his enthusiasm is not shared by Conservative Councillors elsewhere.
A recent survey by Savanta Comres of Conservative Councillors across the country found 61% opposed to the government’s proposals, contained in a White Paper called Planning for the Future. This majority believe the proposals will make planning less democratic as elected members and members of the public will largely be excluded from the planning process, with decisions being handed over to unelected planning officers and developers being given more freedom to build as they wish, rather than as the public wants.
Councillor Sheldon also argued that the proposals in the White Paper will ensure that: “Green spaces will be protected for future generations”, but this is also a conviction out of step with his party colleagues.
70% of Conservative Councillors surveyed by Savanta Comres wanted to see an increase in the land allocated to Green Belt. The Planning for the Future proposals would diminish green space provision as unprotected farm land and open land would be made available for future development.
Saddleworth North Liberal Democrat Councillor Garth Harkness said: “Once again, the Saddleworth Conservatives have shown their support for both planning democracy and the Green Belt is fickle. In the debate, Liberal Democrat Councillors spoke and voted against the proposals.”
“Planning for the Future will clearly lead to less planning democracy, less security for our precious green spaces, less social and affordable housing, and poorer housing standards. It is not planning ‘red tape’ that is preventing the building out of development sites with the new homes that we need. There is already planning permission for developments amounting to one million houses. It is greedy developers who are sitting on land, land-banking their sites, in the hope that house prices will go up.”