U-turn expected on planning regulation proposals

Pic: Peter G. Trimming

A prominent local Conservative has predicted the Government will stage a U-turn on proposals to relax planning regulations, amid growing opposition from the Greater London Assembly.

Steve O’Connell, Assembly member for Croydon and Sutton and Conservative planning spokesman for the Assembly, labelled the proposals which could see eight-metre extensions built without planning permission, a “major problem”.

“I, and the rest of the assembly, have a real problem with the proposal. Someone like me who spends a lot of time fighting inappropriate applications thinks this will be a nightmare.”

“We don’t want to be left with a legacy of a year of inappropriate developments and all the accompanying stresses and strains this will put on neighbours and, to be honest, I expect the government to U-turn on it.”

Announcing the legislation on September 6, David Cameron said he hoped to get “the planners off our backs” and kick-start house building. However, the plans have been met with cross-party criticism.

O’Connell’s comments come a month after Councillor Jason Perry, a Croydon cabinet member, told the council the proposals would cause “harm and misery to people.”

“No one believes that the proposed changes will make any real or lasting difference to the country’s economic difficulties,” he said, “but they will make a big and long-lasting difference to the lives of people who will be affected by the extremely large extensions that may be possible.”

“When the promised consultation is launched on these proposals, my council will resist them in the strongest possible terms. They make no sense; they will cause real and lasting harm and they will do little to boost the economy.”

Some commentators have labelled dissent from Tory ranks a “conservatory rebellion”, with local councils consulting lawyers on the fine print of planning laws.

Disapproval is not unanimous, however. Speaking to Eastlondonlines, Simche Steinberger, Conservative representative for Springfield, Hackney, welcomed the proposals. “There are four wards in Hackney where if you put this to the vote, it would win hands down.”

He went on to say that blocking the proposals would be tantamount to “strangling” the large Jewish, Muslim and Polish communities in his ward of Springfield.

Eastlondonlines contacted the Department of Communities and Local Government for a response to Steve O’Connell’s comments, but they are yet to answer. Number 10 have also declined to comment on department business.

A YouGov poll found that 54 per cent of respondents thought the proposals would lead to a decline in neighbourhood design quality, while only 7 per cent believed it would get better.

Commenting on the findings, Kate Henderson, the Chief Executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, said, “Local communities are not only worried about the design implications of the Government’s further deregulation of planning laws, but also about the loss of their voice in many planning applications.”

“The real barrier to economic growth is not the planning system, but rather the lack of finance in the system. The implications of the Government’s drive towards by-passing local authorities in certain circumstances are serious.”

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