David Heath: Take back control of planning or risk more suburban sprawl
CHANGES in planning introduced by the Government were intended to put many more decisions in the hands of local people rather than the planning inspector from Whitehall.
That must be right. But the result, at least for the moment in Mendip, has been quite the reverse. Because Mendip's local plan figures were successfully challenged, at the moment it seems to be open house for any opportunistic developer seeking permission for developments, and there are some communities feeling besieged as a result.
I had yet another meeting with villagers from Evercreech this week on their concerns about an application for 80 houses, on top of 120 already given permission in recent weeks. They rightly point out that the facilities and the employment in the village cannot possibly cope with such an influx. Villagers in Norton St Philip, Rode or Beckington could tell similar stories.
It really doesn't matter any more whether Mendip were right or wrong, justified or incompetent. What matters is we get back some local control over planning.
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That's why I asked planning minister Nick Boles in parliament this week to allow "emerging plans" to be something that can be taken properly into account, and to bring resubmitted plans from councils like Mendip to the top of the pile for agreement.
He answered positively, but let's wait and see. We need new houses; we don't need rural Somerset turned into suburban sprawl.