Handing planning powers over to business

Local government can seem boring compared to national debates over the survival of the NHS and cuts to law and order but it is local issues which often have the greatest impact on our day-to-day lives. Planning is such an issue, affecting where we live, work and play; by far the most casework I have to deal with as a councillor occurs when planning proposals go wrong.

 For all their talk of ‘localism’ the proposals for a new planning framework amount to little more than taking decision-making powers away from local people and handing them over to businesses. Having inherited a country emerging from recession last year, the Chancellor has taken us back to the verge of another recession. The proposed planning framework are amongst the government’s last available measures to try to encourage growth, having rendered themselves powerless in all other regards. All too often the Tories seem to be in government but out of power.

 For Crawley these planning changes will have a real impact on people’s lives. Crawley is at the centre of a Local Enterprise Partnership, under which we are expected to be a major provider of jobs for the local region. In some respects this is a positive thing, the region is going to need to work together to grow again. However, if we are going to provide these jobs it is going to involve considerable new building work and changes of use to existing buildings. These planning changes will be giving businesses a free hand in changing the nature of our town.

 Planning reform will also impact on how housing is provided locally. It’s no secret that there is a massive shortage of housing locally and the garden grabbing episodes in West Green and Three Bridges have shown how badly wrong attempts to cater to this need have gone in the past. Giving a free hand to developers won’t help to fulfil local need, they have nothing to gain by limiting themselves only to what housing is needed locally. They stand to benefit from building whatever brings the greatest profit. This won’t be the social or affordable housing many people need locally, it won’t help local kids to get their first place in the town.

If we are to sacrifice our green space and take more congestion on our roads we deserve our fair share of the benefits of growth, we need local jobs and houses Crawley residents can afford: these changes will not provide it. We have a Tory government, Tory MP, Tory county council and Tory borough council, they are our representatives at every level, why aren’t they speaking up for the town, why aren’t they working to resolve local needs. Crawley needs a voice that is going to speak up for local people, the planning framework shows that this isn’t the case.

Cllr Peter Lamb - Crawley Borough Council (Northgate Labour)