Sir Bob Neill speaks out against Government planning reforms

Bromley and Chislehurst’s MP has spoken out against controversial planning reforms, warning they could come at the “expense of local democracy.”

The Government is proposing to overhaul the planning system in order to meet a building target of 300,000 new homes a year in England.

Sir Bob Neill joined critics, warning that the plans will undermine local democracy by removing the public’s right to object to specific plans and stripping elected planning committees of development decisions.

News Shopper: A building site (Rui Vieira/PA)

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the current planning system “needs reforming” as “it excludes local people” and is “cumbersome, complicated, and hugely difficult for ordinary people to navigate”.

Speaking in the Commons, he said: “We need also to recognise that that cannot come at the expense of the right of communities to have a say in how those very communities in which they live, in which they have put down their roots, in which they have a stake are developed.

“So, I have a word of caution to the minister about how we approach that in terms of the role of the individual objector and the role of the local authority in the planning process.

“It’s a democratic issue and we have to make sure that we are efficient, but not at the expense of local democracy.”

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Two Conservative MPs rebelled against the Government, voting in favour of Labour’s non-binding motion calling for protection of the right communities to object to individual planning applications.

It was approved by 231 votes to zero, majority 231, with the majority of Tory MPs abstaining.

Conservative William Wragg (Hazel Grove), who rebelled along with Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot), told the Commons: “The problem is we agree with the principle but politics gets in the way. I suppose it’s an occupational hazard of being here.”

He went on: “We’re not Nimbys (not in my back yard), that’s not the accusation that should be thrown at those of us who might have some scepticism about some of the ideas that have been ventured forth.

“Nor indeed are we Bananas, that is to say ‘build absolutely nothing anywhere near anybody’.

“What we want to see is a planning process, although some people might disagree, what we want to see is a planning process that involves and engages people and delivers the housing that we most certainly need.”

Boris Johnson has come under increased pressure to rethink the upheaval as it was partly blamed for the Conservatives’ shock defeat in the Chesham and Amersham by-election.

Cabinet ministers were said to be among those warning the Prime Minister after the Liberal Democrats won the Buckinghamshire seat that has been a Tory stronghold since its creation in 1974.

Bristol – Metro