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Wiltshire Council Conservatives indifferent to threats to local planning influence

May 19, 2011 2:12 PM

Liberal Democrat Councillors have urged caution on government proposals to boost developer's influence in the planning process and take planning decisions even further out of local hands.

"There is real danger that within a decade we will end up with an England of tin sheds, Lego land housing and US style shopping malls" says the Royal Town Planning Institute.

The Government intends to replace the current system with a new top-down "pro- development" commitment and has even proposed that the amount of money being offered by a developer should be a major consideration in deciding an application. The motion called for the Council to recognise the dangers of these proposals for local decision making and indicate its concern with government and local MPs. However Conservative councilors voted en masse to ignore the problem, do nothing and wait till the changes have been made.

Chris Caswill, Councillor for Chippenham Monkton, explained "We're really alarmed at the ways in which government is proposing to encourage developers and sideline local people. This is quite contrary to all the talk about localism, and about local communities making decisions. Now we are even more alarmed at the ill-informed and complacent response of Conservatives on Wiltshire Council, one of whom made the astonishing comment that discussing concerns about planning was " a waste of time'."

"Even though the Royal Town Planning Institute has been expressing its concerns about these proposals for months, Conservative councillors who are on our county planning committees seem completely out of touch with what is going on around them. Those who did know are apparently quite happy to see local involvement in planning overturned by the influence and financial clout of large developers." "Its yet another example of the odd mix of incompetence and indifference to the inclusion of local people that seems to characterize this Council administration."

Lib Dem Group leader, Jon Hubbard, continued "The coalition's Localism Bill is welcomed, in spirit, but it seems that Eric Pickles, the Conservative's Local Government Minister in Parliament, has a very different idea of what Localism means to the Lib Dems. We want Localism that embraces community issues and solves development problems at the level of towns and villages. The Conservatives in central and local government have a weird idea of Localism that is dictated by bureaucrats and national politicians, and which encourages big companies to dictate the agenda for our towns and countryside, at the expense of local voices."

Update! On Wednesday in parliament, Lib Dems secured a crucial amendment to the Localism Bill to force ministers to define 'sustainable development', which allows limitations to be set on the power of developers over local people.

Please note: The Full Council Meeting was held on Tuesday 17th May, at 10.30am. Papers are available online here https://cms.wiltshire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=130&MId=5619&Ver=4 Agenda Item 15b- Planning Policy can be found on Page 159.

The Royal Town Planning Institute views on government proposals for reconstructing the planning system can be found at : http://www.rtpi.org.uk/item/4477/23/5/3 http://www.rtpi.org.uk/item/4581/23/5/3