Daniel Kawczynski MP writes an open letter to David Cameron seeking an assurance that a Conservative Government would change the law to ensure that locally-made planning decisions cannot be overturned.
You have long talked about the existing imbalance of responsibility and power that has developed under this current Government, and championed the need for people to be given a meaningful say in the decisions that affect them. I should like to draw to your attention an issue that has occurred in my constituency of Shrewsbury & Atcham. It is an issue that not only highlights the despicable flaws in the current top-down planning system, but which also demonstrates why local people feel such apathy towards the British political system.
After reading this letter, I hope you will agree that our planning system needs to be overhauled radically so that it is built upwards on the wishes of local residents. Only when there is a democratic, accountable, and decentralised planning system in Britain can people feel empowered over the local decisions that most affect them. I also hope you share my belief that, only if elected politicians and councillors are given substantive authority over all local planning issues, can they be effective representatives of the communities they act on behalf of. We can have a Planning inspectorate if needs be but they should only have authority to overturn local council's decision if they are of national strategic importance. At present this inspectorate can intervene and challenge decisions on the smallest of development plans.
In my constituency, there is a developer which is determined to build on a field next to some homes in Shrewsbury. The trouble is that this project is highly unsuitable for the character of the local area. Not only this, but all the neighbouring residents have expressed their profound displeasure with the proposals.
Three times my local council has rejected this planning application, and so the developer goes to the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol who send a representative to Shrewsbury. He overturns the decision of the local councillors and the residents have no way of appeal apart from going to the High Court. Such a process would of course be far too costly for most people. You can, I am sure, understand my anger that a national level quango, based some 130 miles away in Bristol, can allow the developer’s appeal, giving the go-ahead for this building project. It is, quite simply, despicable that this quango – which is both unelected and unaccountable - has the power to over-rule Shropshire’s democratically elected local Development Control Committee.
I call upon you, as the leader of the Conservative Party and an overt localist, to ensure that the law governing local planning procedures is amended should Conservatives form the next Government. An undemocratic quango should no longer be the agency responsible for administering the appeals system as governed by section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act (1990). I trust we will amend the law to ensure that all local planning projects are bottom-up procedures, which are governed by local authorities, and are consequently not subject to the scrutiny of unelected regional or national quangos.
I know you will take my concerns seriously, and ensure that if Conservatives form the next Government, all local planning decisions will become a matter for local determination. I’m determined to see this change occur, and look forward to your response.