Droitwich's MP calls for urgent planning rules changes

First published in Local

DROITWICH’s MP says it will be virtually impossible for planners to refuse permission to a developer applying to build houses in Wychavon, including Droitwich, unless the Government changes national planning rules urgently.

Peter Luff, who resigned as a defence minister in the reshuffle earlier this month, says he is now free to speak his mind over the “bizarre” situation the Government has created.

He was speaking after the Government further relaxed rules for housebuilders.

Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, has also threatened to strip councils of their powers to determine planning bids if they do not deliver enough permissions.

Among Droitwich residents there has been rising anger on the issue after the granting of a number of applications that have gone in front of Wychavon District Council planners.

Only yesterday, (September 13), permission was granted for the building of 61 homes in land off Crown Land, Wychbold - an application which attracted criticism from villagers.

Wychavon planners say they are in a no-win situation because when they refuse a housing development, a planning inspector waves it through on appeal.

Appeals can rely on housing targets over which the council has no control.

Councillor Judy Pearce said: “We haven’t granted this many permissions since 1998.

“We feel like every time we get anywhere, the goalposts are moved.”

Mr Luff says the Government should not paint the building of new homes as some sacred cow, injecting the economy with a burst of growth.

“The Government thinks there is a shortage of supply of land when the real issue is a shortage of demand for houses,” he said.

“If building houses were the answer to a maiden’s prayer when it comes to economic growth, then Spain and Ireland would be booming – not bust.”

He said the Government needed to stick to its pledge by killing off the old national housing targets - regional spatial strategies - as planning inspectors were still using these dated figures in their rulings on new planning appeals.

Mr Luff believes that without action taken developers will win permission for unsustainable housing estates, in the wrong locations, going against the Government’s own planning policy.

Chairman of the Local Government Association, Sir Merrick Cockell, has said the current situation could fatally undermine public confidence in a fair planning system.

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