Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Last week the government brought forward a major change in the planning framework and is currently consulting on it. You can find more information on the Communities and Local Government website.
The aim is to simplify the planning guidance issued by government to make it more sensible and user-friendly. But the big change is to include a presumption in favour of sustainable development. In other words, the planners have to show why a development should not take place rather than the applicants demonstrate why it should.
It would still protect the Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Conservation Areas as now but in all other areas the presumption in favour of planning permission would mean that more projects would get the go-ahead. The intention behind this is to help get the economy moving again and to give the construction sector a much needed boost. Although there is a three month consultation process, I gather that the planning inspectorate is already working to it.
I have witnessed far too often in recent years planning authorities, especially rural ones, saying no to development for no good reason. If parts of our countryside are particularly special they should be protected as Green Belt or AONB. It is important our rural landscape does not become a museum, but a living, breathing, working place. Most of our small villages need some small scale housing, especially of the affordable kind for local people. Farmers need to diversify and this may mean building things from time to time. We all enjoy the great houses owned now by the National Trust, built in rural settings. There is no way that they would have got planning permission today and that needs to change.
Of course this must not become a free for all and that is not the intention, but it is time for change.
The presumption in favour of development has particular poignancy for us on the eastern flank of Plymouth. If Sherford does not go ahead soon, other developers are going to come forward with their own pet schemes all around the fringes, schemes which lack the same level of amenities and coherence as the Sherford proposal. This has got stuck because of a dispute over the level of affordable housing but I am fast coming to the view that it needs to become unstuck pretty soon to protect us against other incoherent development.
It may be summer, but never a dull moment.

posted by Gary @ 15:16