Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey & Southampton North, has used a Parliamentary debate to flag up planning as ‘the single most controversial issue’ in her constituency, and went on to say the Government has ‘not delivered localism’.
In a wide ranging speech, which was critical of Government policies on planning, Caroline spoke about the need for a robust local plan which ‘squared the circle’ between the competing demands of new housing and development, whilst maintaining the character of urban areas, and also protecting rural areas – in particular the countryside.
Caroline, who said her constituency was ‘split between urban and rural’, repeated her previous calls for more Green Belt in Hampshire, and raised the issue of ‘garden grabbing’ with the Planning Minister, Nick Boles MP, by using the example of Bassett, on the edge of Southampton.
“Basset is an example of where urban planning pressures are every bit as complicated as those of green field sites” said Caroline. “The drive by developers to squeeze additional properties into back gardens, demolish family housing and replace it with blocks of flats, and the continued spread of Houses of Multiple Occupation, turn Bassett into a classic example of where garden grabbing has continued apace”. Caroline went on to discuss the Bassett Neighborhood Plan, which has been hugely welcomed and is due to be put a referendum of Bassett residents later this year.
Caroline also commented on the Revised Local Plan, due to come before Test Valley Borough Council within the next few weeks, and highlighted some of the issues facing the Borough Council in deciding the strategy, saying “it is sad when one part of a community is set against another, and a determination to protect one green field site happens at the expense of others”. Caroline went on point out the invaluable role green fields play in flood prevention, agriculture and recreation, and reiterated to the minister the need for ‘brownfield first, and for more powers to be granted to local authorities to oblige owners of brownfield sites with planning permission to develop more quickly, to ease pressure on other areas.
Caroline also used the speech to say the Government had not made localism a reality, and that local planning decisions must ‘be made locally, and in accordance with local wishes’.
Speaking after, Caroline said “Localism is a policy which must be delivered, but is not yet a reality. Not enough say over planning has been devolved to local communities, and the Government must deliver its promise on this issue”.