Article by Tony Diver and published on The Telegraph.
Giving local residents a vote on building works on their street would resolve the gridlock between Robert Jenrick and Conservative backbenchers over the planning bill, MPs have said.
The Government has been forced to water down its landmark planning bill, which contains “electorally toxic” plans to force councils to build more homes or face sanctions, while making it harder for residents to object to new developments.
Mr Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, hoped the plans would boost construction to 300,000 new homes a year – but MPs in Tory strongholds in the South of England say the party will lose seats to the Liberal Democrats if they go through.
As many as 100 Tory MPs were expected to vote against the Government.
MPs will on Monday lay a Presentation Bill in the Commons encouraging Mr Jenrick to incorporate radical proposals that would give communities a vote on the housing styles in their areas and the density of new homes.
Allowing locals to decide whether new development could take place and what it looks like would convert Nimbys (who oppose housebuilding near their homes) into pro-development residents and reduce the political heat from the debate, they argue.
John Penrose, a Tory MP, said: “It will mean we get the right buildings in the right places, rather than having ugly or ‘anywhere-ville’ identikit houses and offices plonked down in the teeth of local opposition.
“And it will take power away from deep-pocketed developers with smart lawyers, so they can’t slow everything down to a crawl to keep prices so high that local families can’t afford them either.”
The plans were drawn up with the help of the think tanks Policy Exchange and Create Streets.
They are supported by the CPRE – a countryside charity that has been critical of the planning reforms and attempts to build significantly more houses.
Tony Burton, chairman of CPRE London, said: “Experience shows that quality planning decisions depend on quality community engagement and people having a direct say in the future of their streets and open spaces.
“This has been at the heart of the success of neighbourhood planning over the last decade and this report is a timely reminder of the potential to extend community rights even further.”
MPs backing Presentation Bill
Other MPs who back today’s Presentation Bill include Simon Clarke, David Simmonds, Sir Bernard Jenkin, Sir John Hayes, Kevin Hollinrake and Bob Blackman.
The planning bill climbdown, which has not yet been officially confirmed by ministers, came after concerns the housebuilding plans would lead to a collapse in support for the Conservatives in stronghold seats.
The so-called “Blue Wall” of Tory constituencies is at risk of losing votes to the Liberal Democrats.
Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, has already announced his party will be targeting 20 of the seats at the next election.
It follows the fall of Chesham and Amersham, a former Tory stronghold, to his party at a by-election earlier this year. Mr Jenrick’s planning bill was cited by campaigners on the ground as a reason many Conservatives were defecting.
The plans originally divided the country into priority areas for housebuilding, and areas that would be protected from new planning applications.
The so-called “zonal system” and mandatory building targets for local authorities could be abandoned in a watered-down version of the bill when it reaches Parliament, The Times reported last week.
Figures show that in 2019-20, almost 244,000 homes were built – the highest number since the late 1980s. Separate analysis by the Local Government Association found that 1.1 million homes with planning permission are waiting to be built.
In the first quarter of 2021, construction began on 46,010 houses – an increase of a third on the same period in 2020.