Thank you for contacting me regarding the Planning White Paper.
I welcome the broad principles laid out in Planning for the Future, which seeks to streamline our outdated, complex, and slow planning system. That said, I do have some serious concerns regarding specific aspects of the proposals.
The proposed housing algorithm would see South Hams and Torbay Councils required to nearly double the number of new homes built every year. This is simply not acceptable.
Before we build new houses, we need greater investment in our local community, in order to provide the jobs to support families to live in those homes. Without this, such a level of house building would only increase the number of second home owners in our local area, already eight times the average proportion across England, still further.
It is also vital that democratic oversight of local planning proposals continues, with input from the local communities affected. Neighbourhood Plans play an important role in achieving this, helping to ensure the character of local communities is maintained while meeting local demand for housing. As such, these Plans must be a guaranteed component of planning going forward.
In light of my concerns, which to me reflect an urban mindset which does not fit into our rural way of life, I have joined a working group of backbench MPs seeking to amend these proposals. Our local community, and rural areas across our country, need a better deal than these plans and I will continue to work hard to deliver this.
That said, these issues aside, the planning proposals are a step in the right direction. Streamlining our planning system will help deliver more homes, better designed and more environmentally-friendly. By doing so, we will be able to help more young people achieve the ‘Great British dream’ of homeownership.
The new system proposed would also retain important safeguards for our environment, including the existing protections for designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This will protect our own local AONB of South Devon for our children and our grandchildren to enjoy for generations to come.