Bexhill MP slams Government planning proposals as 'utter madness'

Bexhill’s MP has slammed Government proposals, which could mean neighbours could be allowed to vote on whether permission should be granted for developments, such as house extensions, in their street.

Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle, described the move as ‘ utter madness’ in a tweet on Thursday (May 12), .

He added: “What’s next; ‘I veto the colour of your front door or your car on the drive’? The aspirational party I joined under Thatcher didn’t hold a poll, or deny hard-working people the chance to improve their homes, based on neighbour envy.”

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The MP’s remarks come after the Government’s new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill was announced this week during the Queen's Speech read by the Prince of Wales on Tuesday (May 10).

Whitehall said the bill will amend the planning system to give residents ‘more involvement in local development’.

Mr Merriman said: “I was expecting a radical overhaul of our planning process to make it easier for developers to build the homes we need in the right places. As to where this would happen, and in order to gain local support, I wanted to simplify the local parish plan process and give the plans more weight. We know that parish plans deliver more support for housing and more housing as a result.

“Alongside this, I had advocated making it harder for developers to make fresh applications until they have built out on those sites where permission had already been granted.

"To speed up that development, I had argued for financial penalties to be imposed on developers who do not build-out. This could be in the form of council tax being applied twelve months after the planning consent has been granted rather than when the home actually gets built.

Bexhill and Battle MP, Huw Merrimann

“Taken as a whole, these ideas could have shaken up the process. We could move towards a goal of delivering a foot on the housing ladder for those who need it with more support from those who rightly want to protect our beautiful coast and countryside.

“Instead, we appear to have the outline of very limited measures which, while welcome in some areas, will not appear to deliver the changes which we badly need in East Sussex.

"As to the proposal for residents’ vote on their neighbour’s home extension and improvements, this strikes me as completely unworkable in practice.

"Planning has to be fair. Fairness requires a set of rules rather than a competition to see who can gather the most support or opposition.

"This will do nothing for community cohesion, or fairness across the system, and I will not support it. I hope that the planning reforms will be more ambitious. I will be urging Government to up its game.”