Bill would be repealed

SIR – Letter writer, Bryn Jones wrote to you in last week s Welwyn & Hatfield Times pointing out that there is an obscure bill making its way through Parliament, at the moment called Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill. As your cor

SIR - Letter writer, Bryn Jones wrote to you in last week's Welwyn & Hatfield Times pointing out that there is an obscure bill making its way through Parliament, at the moment called Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill.

As your correspondent correctly points out, the bill seeks to make changes which will further bolster the hated system of regional planning the consequences of which we are already all too familiar with in Welwyn Hatfield.

I have to say that I share Mr Jones' concerns.

Indeed, the whole regional and target-driven approach to planning is fundamentally undemocratic and has led to planning decisions that have very nearly rode roughshod over strongly-held local opinions.


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I have therefore been pleased to help make it Conservative policy to scrap this entire top-down system and abolish the regional quangos that are imposing their will on local people.

I personally believe that if local people were more involved in the planning process, and if that process were more locally-led, then we would achieve far more by way of appropriate levels of development with facilities provided in return for residents.

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Your readers may be interested to know that last month I published a Green Paper on housing called Strong Foundations. This is now official Conservative policy and proposes:

* Abolishing regional planning quangos and devolving their powers to local authorities;

* Revoking all regional spatial strategies and allowing local authorities to revise, in whole or in part, their existing local development frameworks so as to undo the changes that have been forced upon them;

* Incentivising new house-building by matching local authorities' council tax take for each new house built for six years;

* Allowing villages and towns to create 'Local Housing Trusts' with planning powers to develop local homes for local people, which will remain in local ownership in perpetuity - an idea that I actually based on Essendon as an example;

* Making pre-application consultations between developers and local people mandatory for major applications; and

* Reversing the classification of gardens as brownfield land and allowing local authorities to prevent over-development and 'garden grabbing'.

The Green Paper is available to read in full at my website www.shapps.com

The current Government's euphemistically named Local Democracy Bill is now passing through the House of Lords and will be considered by the House of Commons in the next few months.

As a result of Mr Jones' letter and many similar ones I have received direct, I will ensure that my colleagues on the Conservative frontbench are aware of the concerns raised and will continue to campaign for a planning system that delivers what local communities need.

Furthermore, if this bill passes, but Conservatives win the next election, I will aim to repeal the elements of this legislation which work against democratic local control.

Grant Shapps MP.

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