MP Soames: Neighbourhood plans '˜should be respected'

MP Sir Nicholas Soames has spoken out during a debate of town and village plans.
MP Sir Nicholas Soames. Picture: Steve RobardsMP Sir Nicholas Soames. Picture: Steve Robards
MP Sir Nicholas Soames. Picture: Steve Robards

In the House of Commons yesterday (January 30), he raised the importance of neighbourhood plans.

He said: “Neighbourhood plans will produce more houses by consent than anyone believes is possible, hence the importance of sticking to the system.

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“Secondly, the integrity of the system is vital. Local people spend hundreds and hundreds of hours of their own free will making a great effort to produce these plans, and it is vital that they are honoured.

“I am encouraged by the point made by MP John Howell that the national planning policy framework needs to be strengthened. I would welcome that.

“Thirdly, I say again – it cannot be said too often that the behaviour of some major developers is appalling.

“It traduces our constituents and our constituencies, our elected councillors and our district councils.

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“It is the kind of behaviour which the Government should not put up with.

“Finally, if people are prepared to spend all that time and effort on producing something very important to them, those efforts should be respected in all honour.”

The MP for Mid Sussex asked if the Government had considered, or were considering, limiting the amount of time for which builders can hold on to land before building on it.

Minister for Housing Dominic Raab responded and said that it was something ‘they would consider’.

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Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert also raised the importance of neighbourhood plans in the debate.

He said: “First, I say to the minister that this is not about opposition to housing.

“In West Sussex as a whole, when I was first elected, the draft south east plan proposed an amount of housing far below what is now being built under the new system.

“The objectively assessed need for West Sussex produces 66 per cent more houses than the draft south east plan, and the new formula will produce nearly double the draft south east plan.

“It is placing massive pressure on local infrastructure.

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“If we allow neighbourhood plans to be bust, then we undermine the principle of consent, and in the end, fewer houses will be built by consent.

“That leads us to only one policy – the imposition of housing, which will be massively unpopular.

“The minister must understand that developers are gaming the system. They are ensuring that five-year land supplies are not adequate.

“Consequently, neighbourhood plans either in draft form or, worse, when they are made and approved by large referendums are being broken through. Some of the solution lies in his hands.

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“The Government produced a helpful improvement to the situation last year, but his predecessor refused to entertain call-ins or appeals.

“When the minister comes to take any decisions that might be in the balance, he must be mindful of the importance of supporting the neighbourhood planning process.

“In the end, the Government face a fundamental choice. They can hold to the Localism Act 2011, a flagship policy that empowered local communities and gave them responsibility, including for decisions about where to locate housing.

“We are now in a difficult position; public faith in the policy of localism is being gravely undermined by people’s feeling that developers are simply overriding neighbourhood plans or that the Government apply rules that are too tight and do not recognise the power of giving local communities the control that they should have.”

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