South Derbyshire Conservative Councillors have condemned a section of Government Planning Policy which they say is creating open season for speculators and stretching local communities to breaking point.
Councillor Bob Wheeler, Leader of the Conservatives on the District Council said “South Derbyshire is a fast growing District and we welcome appropriate housing to meet the needs of an expanding population. What we do not welcome are totally inappropriate developments going through, which Councillors believe should be refused. This is happening because we know that a Government Inspector would pass them on appeal which would cost our Council Tax payers thousands of pounds in costs, a situation we are anxious to avoid.”
The last Labour government imposed a requirement on South Derbyshire to build 13,000 new homes. We consider this number to be excessive, but in order to comply, the Council has submitted a Local Plan to the government which identifies sites for over 12,340 houses. It is a plan which has tried to overcome the worst aspects of over development and follows many years of consultation with the affected communities.
However, until the Plan is approved, under Paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework it is made clear that Councils which cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land, which is most of the councils in the country, will have imposed on them a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”. In other words it is almost impossible to turn down any planning application.
Bob continued “But, shockingly, this does not help people looking for a home. South Derbyshire has, because of this requirement, granted planning permission for hundreds of houses which will not be built until developers decide they can be sold at the right price. In other words they will sit on their planning permissions until house prices rise.
It does not help our villages and towns, where developments are being forced on communities, without regard to the effect on roads, schools, health, local services or our beautiful countryside.
The only people it helps are opportunistic speculative developers who use this loophole to build up a land bank for years to come”.
Neil Atkin, Councillor for the Aston Ward said “Village services and road infrastructure are being stretched to breaking point by these inappropriate developments, which would not be permitted under the submitted Local Plan.”
Councillor John Harrison added “Melbourne Ward has unwelcome applications in and pending which would increase the population of the village by over a third. Enough damage has been done already. We call on the Government to suspend Paragraph 49 for all Councils which have submitted a Local Plan”.
Heather Wheeler, MP for South Derbyshire, shares the concerns of local residents and the District Council and has taken the matter up with Minister of State, Brandon Lewis MP.
Heather said “I support the District Council and local residents with their concerns. Having spent years consulting and coming to a settled view on where land should be zoned for new housing I find it intolerable that Planning Inspectors could overrule local Councillors on where new housing should be placed purely by their interpretation of paragraph 49 of the NPPF. I have written to the Minister asking for Appeals to be put on hold if the land is outside the zoned area until the new Local Plan is agreed. I think this is the only fair way to proceed in order to end excessive speculative developers and protect our communities.”