Party funding is in the news at the moment. So it’s perhaps the time to turn the searchlight on the Tories’ sources of income.

It’s a beam which certainly reveals some interesting facts – and begs some serious questions.
And some of them are very relevant to concerns in Leeds North West about housing development.open space1

At the time that the current National Planning Framework was being pushed through Parliament the Telegraph noted that
‘Helical Bar, whose chief executive is a Conservative activist and has donated more than £300,000 to the party, has won permission for hundreds of houses on two green belt sites, one of which, in Great Alne, Warwickshire, contains a conservation area with mature woodland. Mike Slade, the firm’s chief executive, is chairman of the Conservative Property Forum, a donors’ club that arranges meetings between property bosses and senior Tories.’

The same paper went on to say
‘ministers in charge of planning laws have met senior property industry figures 28 times since the general election, while holding only 11 meetings with environmentalists’
Taylor Wimpey’s planning director was one of those who helped draft the new planning regulations.

These are the planning regulations which are now in place – and which are working to erode the Green Belt.

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England has been monitoring the effects of the new planning framework. A lot of this is detailed stuff which passes below the radar of national media. But it’s the sort of detail which is critical to understanding what is happening.

‘An Inspector’s recommended dismissal of a large development by Peel Holdings of 350 houses at Worsley, in open countryside on the edge of Salford and initially refused by the Metropolitan Borough Council, was overruled by the Secretary of State in July 2012. This was despite the Planning Inspector finding that there was enough brownfield land available in Salford to accommodate over 19,000 new houses. Both regional and local policies calling for the reuse of brownfield land in sequence before greenfield sites were overruled by the Secretary of State, who said that ‘the sequential approach to location of housing development is not reflected in the [NPPF].’ So once again the economic interests of developers were judged to be more important than the need to protect greenfield land and regenerate brownfield sites.’

Note that – the Minister over-ruled a decision using the argument that there was no provision in the new framework for developing brownfield land before greenfield.

As CPRE say
‘Local authorities are being expected to allow more development on greenfield sites because it is argued that reuse of brownfield sites is no longer economically viable. Planning Inspectors have said there is no longer a policy requiring the use of brownfield sites before greenfield, contrary to Ministers’ assurances that policies must encourage brownfield sites to be brought back into use.’

So what has all this to do with Party Funding?

It’s a question you might well ask.

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