The current planning exercise, with its proposals for housing development over the next fifteen years, is causing a stir.
People are concerned about development – about inappropriate development, without adequate infrastructure, and especially about development on Green Belt, or ex-Green Belt land.
We share many of their concerns – though we are also deeply committed to tackling the housing needs of the future. Sensitive development and meeting housing needs can go hand in hand.
But for that to happen, we need proper local consultation and local control.
Leeds Labour Council is providing the consultation alright. But the Coalition government has taken away local control.
The National Planning Framework was an exocet missile fired into the heart of that control. It makes a mockery of Pickles’s empty mouthings about ‘localism’.
And they’re far from finished yet.
• The Coalition Government is consulting on further changes to ‘permitted development rights’ and ‘Use Class Orders’.
So what, we can hear you saying – technicalities like this are a turn off.
‘Permitted development rights’ ‘Use Class Orders’ are about what can and cannot be done with land, changes of use, and what you can and cannot do without permission. These changes are designed to make it easier to change the use of land, and to develop, without the need to seek permission from the Local Planning Authority.
The Government began the process in May – and it’s now proposing more changes.
• They will take powers away from local communities and make it more difficult for them to shape what is happening on the High Street.
• In the countryside, they remove significant planning protections, risking poor and inappropriate development.
The changes last May took away important rights for local people to help shape their local community and how it develops. These proposals go further.
They will greatly extend what can be done without planning permission being required.
Councils will still be able to object. But that will now mean a costly process – which they can ill afford at a time of savage cuts to local Government spending.
Coalition-watchers are already very concerned.
Two of the National Park Authorities have voiced their fears.
• “Traditional farm buildings are an integral part of the landscape and heritage which we and other national park authorities were set up to conserve. These proposals would seriously undermine one of our main statutory purposes and diminish local control of the management of national parks.” The Peak District National Park Authority chair Tony Favell
• “These proposed changes would have very real implications for the amount, mix and spread of new development in the New Forest National Park. If carried through as drafted, the proposed changes would cut across and seriously undermine many of the long established planning policies in the Forest.” The New Forest National Park Authority
There’s still time to respond – but not much. The consultation process ends on 15 October.
But if you visit the webpage you can make your opinions felt.
Why not say something like
‘I am unhappy with the removal of powers that our Local Authority will have to shape our community. Rather than giving away more rights over Use Class Orders we are asking that you give Local Authorities powers over Use Class Orders and permitted planning development rights in their area.’
‘I am also concerned that powers have been removed from local councils and National Park Authorities to enable them to protect our natural landscapes and ensure appropriate development.’
These proposals are yet another clear indication of the Coalition’s direction of travel.
Seen as part of the bigger picture, this is just another case of the Coalition shifting the goalposts in favour of a free-for-all for development – and taking powers away from Local Councils.
WHICH MEANS TAKING POWERS AWAY FROM YOU AND ME.
Through big changes – like the National Planning Framework – and through the drip drip of smaller ones like this, they are gradually removing YOUR ability to influence the environment in which you live.
Under this Coalition, the balance has shifted markedly towards developers.
What does Labour propose.
Labour has responded with a clear signal that it wishes to redress that balance, in favour of true localism.
In April of this year Ed Miliband launched Labour’s policy to give back powers to local authorities.
Labour wants to empower communities to get actively involved in developing their neighbourhood rather than creating a planning regime that gives them no say over what is happening in their area.
So what is our LibDem MP Greg Mulholland doing?
What he always does best – washing his hands of it all, and blaming somebody else.
He’s a past master at shuffling off responsibility for what HIS OWN GOVERMENT does – with HIS support – and blaming it on the Labour Council, which HIS government is depriving of powers.
He accuses Leeds Labour Council of planning to concrete over Leeds North West.
He omits to say that it is HIS Government which has changed the planning laws to make development easy; HIS Government which has changed Local Authority Funding in ways which force Councils to build; HIS Government which continues to take away what powers are left to them to control development.
Mr Mulholland likes to see himself as a ‘local’ nice guy.
Unfortunately HIS Government has eroded local powers under a cloak of laughable ‘localism’.
And now he has the cheek to blame others for the results.
We in the Labour party are all in favour of localism. We just want to see the real thing.
That will benefit all of us in Leeds NW, including and especially those concerned about its green acres.