Local Planning

Dan Poulter speaks out about developers exploiting loopholes in planning rules

MP Dan Pulter
Dan Poulter

Dan Poulter, the Central Suffolk MP, has spoken out about “loopholes” being exploited by housing developers to bring forward plans for wholesale development in villages without sufficient infrastructure.

He was speaking in the House of Commons yesterday in a debate initiated by George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) who said, “The rules are being exploited, through a legal loophole, by big out-of-town volume house builders… in order to take the opportunity to force through developments in areas where one would not sensibly want to build.”

Early in the debate Mr Poulter, asked:

Does he [Mr Freeman] agree that the value of the local plan is that it also has regard to local infrastructure needs, potentially at village level? The current loopholes that are being exploited see developers coming forward with plans for wholesale, 300 or 400-house developments without that infrastructure, which are against the interests of many of our villages in Suffolk and Norfolk.

Mr Freeman responded:

My hon. Friend makes the very point that I will be making. This is about infrastructure and public services. A proper plan is not just about houses, but about the community, its needs, the public services, the infrastructure, the drainage and so on. Like many colleagues, I welcomed the Localism Act. I could understand when the former Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced the national planning policy framework, with its presumption in favour of sustainable development, to shift the balance, particularly at a time when the housing market was on its knees, and to encourage the building of the necessary houses and the development that we needed. The five-year land supply makes logical sense. We do not want a nimby’s charter, which allows councils to plan and then ignore their own plan.

However, what is happening in Mid Norfolk is giving the lie to that promise. For those of us who backed and supported localism, it is beginning to undermine public trust, and not just trust in the local planning system and support for development. It is beginning to foster the very nimbyism that was not there before and, even worse, is beginning to foster, complicate and compound a distrust in political promises. That is damaging to the planning system at a time when we really need proper strategic planning and local support.

Responding, Dominic Raab, housing minister, said:

Communities who had worked hard to put their neighbourhood plan in place were left frustrated as decisions went against the plan, despite their having done everything that was asked of them. As hon. Members have argued, that can only undermine confidence in the referendum process and the localism agenda. Seeking to remedy that, we issued a written ministerial statement in December 2016 to ensure that national planning policy provided additional protection to precisely those communities. The change that was made protects neighbourhood plans that are less than two years old and that allocate sites for housing, as long as the local planning authority has more than three years’ supply of deliverable housing sites.

Labour and SNP members spoke in support of Mr Freeman.

Links: Full transcript of the debate at Hansard

The Eastern Daily Press report on the debate

Debenham plan details at the Taylor Wimpey website

Note: I have tweeted Dan Poulter asking him to confirm that his comment was indended to include Taylor Wimpey’s 295 houses application to build in Debenham.

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