Conservative planning bill favours developers over local democracy

Oldham and Saddleworth Liberal Democrats are fearful that the announcement in the Queen’s Speech that the Conservative Government intends to press ahead with its proposals for new planning legislation will favour developers and mean an end to local people and councillors having a say in planning decisions.

Under Conservative plans, central government will designate whole swathes of the country for ‘growth’, meaning that developers will have ‘planning permission in principle’. Conservative ministers claim it will eliminate ‘red tape’ but the Liberal Democrats fear that it abolishes any meaningful involvement of local councils and residents in planning matters.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, said: “The Conservatives claim that this legislation will speed up the planning process. In reality it kills off any opportunity for local people and their elected representatives to have their say in whether a proposed development meets local needs or is compatible with the existing natural and built environment.

“At present, planning applications are judged against local planning criteria by officers. Local people and councillors are invited to comment on the plan and officers then make a recommendation to the Planning Committee which has the final say on the most contentious matters. Committee meetings are open to the public who are invited to elect a spokesperson to address members.”

Councillor Sykes added: “Under this legislation once an area is designated for ‘growth’, developers coming forward with plans for new houses or offices for example will be assumed to have planning permission automatically and there will be minimal involvement from officers, and none from the public or councillors, prior to development taking place.”

“The irony is that the legislation is unnecessary as nine out of 10 housing applications are already passed by councils – the real problem is that housebuilders are not building out on the land upon which they already have planning approval.”

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