Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Member of Parliament for The Cotswolds recently contributed to a debate in the House of Commons entitled ‘Localism in Planning’.
Mr Clifton-Brown raised a number of issues during the debate on behalf of the considerable number of concerned constituents that have contacted him regarding local planning applications. This debate followed the extremely well attended public meeting held in Stow-on-the-Wold at St Edwards Church.
During his speech Geoffrey Clifton-Brown urged the Planning Minister to “Let localism work” and allow local councils to make their own decisions on planning applications. He raised three specific concerns he has with the current planning system. The first is that councils with a historic under-provision of housing, such as Cotswolds District Council, are expected to provide 20% additional housing on top of the five-year land supply required of all councils. He argued this was unfair, unreasonable and unsustainable.
Secondly, he argued that appropriate infrastructure improvements should be in place before any large-scale planning applications are approved, and that a mechanism should be established to allow this to happen.
Thirdly, he spoke of the large number of solar farm applications in his constituency, and raised concerns that residents were not receiving any benefit from these applications and that there should be a mechanism that allows local residents to receive some benefit.
Mr Clifton-Brown also specifically highlighted concerns about the response by Thames Water to the numerous sewage flooding issues in the constituency. Speaking in the House of Commons he said “There is a lot of sewage flooding in my constituency. Thames Water’s performance in my constituency is woeful. We had a case in which sewage flooded an existing community, and because the system could not put sufficient weight on Thames Water’s representations, another 150 houses were given permission right next to where there was already sewage flooding.” Geoffrey Clifton-Brown is in close correspondence with the Chairman of Thames Water over the large number of sewage flooding problems in the Cotswolds and is determined to achieve a satisfactory resolution. Mr Clifton-Brown’s next set of public flooding meetings with take place in October throughout the constituency. The details of these meetings are as followed:
9:30-11:00 South Cerney, South Cerney Village Hall
11:30-13:00 Cirencester, Council Chamber, Cotswolds District Council
14:00-15:00 Fairford, Farmer Room, Community Centre, High Street
16:00-17:30 Moreton-in-Marsh, Council Chamber, Moreton Area Centre
17:30-18:30 Three Rivers Ward, Council Chamber, Moreton Area Centre
Concluding his speech Geoffrey said “I therefore say this to the Minister. Let localism work. Let the local councils decide where to put these houses. In the Cotswolds, the number of permissions granted is now three times the historical 10-year rate. That is unacceptable and will lead to the loss of those historic communities in the Cotswolds.”
Following the debate, Geoffrey said “I was pleased to have the opportunity to raise my constituents’ concerns about the increasing number of planning applications in The Cotswolds in front of the Planning Minister. It is important that Ministers are aware of the effects of planning applications on small markets towns, such as those in The Cotswolds. We need to ensure that all planning applications are proportionate and that there is sufficient infrastructure to support new developments before they take place. I will be following up these concerns with the Planning Minister in the future”
Please find the full text of Mr Clifton-Brown’s contribution below:
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): I am very grateful to you, Mr Hollobone, for allowing me to speak, especially as I, too, had only hoped to intervene. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) on securing the debate. I agree wholeheartedly with his comments that the emerging local plans should be given more weight by the inspectorate.
I have a particularly difficult constituency in terms of planning: 80% of it is an area of outstanding natural beauty; I have 10 historic market towns that are absolute gems-if there were a listed town status, all 10 would qualify-and I have the highest number of listed houses as a proportion of the housing stock of anywhere outside London. I therefore want to make three specific points to my hon. Friend the Minister.
First, I did praise the national planning policy framework when it came out, but I had one specific reservation, which has come back to bite our communities. As the Minister knows, one case in my constituency is now to be reviewed in the courts. It concerns the 20% historical under-provision. This is grossly unfair. It is quite reasonable to have a five-year land bank, but my council has a very good record of bringing forward developments. It has a very good new homes bonus rate. To impose an additional 20%, on top of the five-year land supply, is completely unreasonable and unsustainable. If we are not careful, we will lose those 10 historic market towns-we will lose those little gems that we have in this country.
Secondly, we must have a mechanism by which infrastructure is provided before large-scale developments are built. There is a lot of sewage flooding in my constituency. Thames Water’s performance in my constituency is woeful. We had a case in which sewage flooded an existing community, and because the system could not put sufficient weight on Thames Water’s representations, another 150 houses were given permission right next to where there was already sewage flooding.
My third point relates to solar farms. We have been assailed in the Cotswolds by applications for solar farms recently. I do not object to that necessarily, although there is no guidance to say what the impact should be on an area of outstanding natural beauty. Suffice it to say that there is no mechanism in the planning system for the community to benefit from these solar farms. They would be classed as large developments if they were housing developments. They are between 20 and 50 acres and involve many millions of pounds for the developer. If it were a residential development, the local community would get considerable benefit through the infrastructure levy, yet there is no such mechanism in relation to solar farms.
I therefore say this to the Minister. Let localism work. Let the local councils decide where to put these houses. In the Cotswolds, the number of permissions granted is now three times the historical 10-year rate. That is unacceptable and will lead to the loss of those historic communities in the Cotswolds.
Source: Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP Member of Parliament for The Cotswolds