As I See It: Localism and Lies

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I write having read the article “New tactic in bid for 137 Whalley homes” in last week’s Clitheroe Advertiser in which the latest ruse enabling developers to bypass local planning controls is outlined.

To ensure an application complies with planning policies and requirements the local planning office must obtain information from statutory consultees (LCC Highways and Education, United Utilities, the Environment Agency and others). A recommendation for approval or refusal will follow from the Borough Council Planning Department. Councillors on the Planning Committee will then vote on the proposal.

For large developments, such as the Barratt (David Wilson Homes) application in Whalley, a 13-week period is allowed in order for a decision to be made. With the mountain of reports from a developer’s consultants to sift through, distribute to the consultees and receive responses, many of which need more information from the consultants, it is hardly surprising that the 13-week period is exceeded.

The Government, in its hysterical rush to build everywhere, has encouraged developers to apply the 13 week rule rigorously. It has done this in a fit of pique because it wants houses built, even though houses are not actually going up. Effectively, this punishes the local planning authority, which is unjust, unwanted and insidious. It is another measure by which the Government is forcing its will on the area, taking out local decision making.

The Save Whalley Village group has some 1,500 members. They, along with many other people, are being forced to accept these measures. We are not a political organisation in any shape or form. However, many of our members will have voted for the Conservatives at the last election, encouraged by promises of a Localism Act which would, we were told, give them the right to decide how much development they should have and where it would go.

This was a lie. The Greenbelt would be protected, another lie. Greenbelt is already seeing development in parts of the country. They were told that they must accept development as it was the only means of getting affordable houses built. Now, under the latest bill (following the NPPF planning bill), developers don’t need to build affordable houses if they can prove that a development isn’t profitable if they include affordable houses. David Cameron himself said that people should not have great big estates “plonked” down next to their villages. He is now supporting an opposite view.

The goal posts have been stretched so wide that they now reach from one corner of the pitch to the other. Our MP speaks to the relevant departments but is ignored. He cannot speak out in Parliament as he’s a deputy speaker. People feel frustrated, angry and betrayed. Many tell us they are looking to make a protest at the ballot box, the only means of protest left open to them. We shall see if they do.