12 Apr 2013

Neil Carmichael MP joins Parish Council meeting

View from Painswick on recent walk
Last night our MP joined the Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish Council meeting. Before the meeting got going Neil answered questions mainly on the proposed new Neighbourhood Plans....well before getting onto those I did ask if he would support campaigns against any development on the Ruscombe fields or Callowell - I was delighted that he said he would oppose both. I asked if he would also hold placards in any demonstration if it got to that...again he said he would.....of course at the moment there is no immediate threat to those sites but we have to remain particularly vigilant....

The discussions about the Neighbourhood Plan at times were heated - Neils' view is that they offer localism and real choice, yet advice from planners contradicts this saying they can really only say where we want houses not where we don't want them....also Neighbourhood Plans cannot provide for less development than is laid out in Stroud's Local Plan.

So will they be useful? Shall we embark on what is loads of work for the Parish only to find they are toothless? At the moment - until I see evidence otherwise - it seems that alot of this is pretend localism - indeed many have spoken out against them - For example Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the Local Government Association’s Liberal Democrat group has said that there is a mismatch between what local people will articulate a desire for through the new neighbourhood planning system and the degree of control over development that residents will actually be able to exert. He pointed out that new neighbourhood plans would be required to be consistent with national planning policy and conform to the strategic elements of local plans. He went on: “This gives the illusion of local involvement in planning. My worry is that we are giving the illusion to people that they can control the environment, without actually the reality of it.”

Research commissioned by the National Trust has also found that more than two-thirds of people (70%) say they would be unlikely to get involved in neighbourhood planning.

However there are little bits in the Neighbourhood Plans that could be useful....it could give some additional weight and powers to local communities.....the proof will of course be when they start being tested and used...

Neil said there was as much as £37,000 available to help develop a Neighbourhood Plan but two Parish councillors had attempted to find this money - Neil acknowledged he hadn't either but would help locate it. If the Parish do go-ahead I will be very happy to support moves to a Plan.

Sadly what Monbiot wrote in 2011 here (worth a read) is coming true in my view......far from developing a strong planning framework that would lead to growth we have a weakening of planning laws....developers becoming more speculative, choosing green fields that are easier to develop than brown, not building houses with the quality that is needed to tackle fuel poverty....I could go on but it is depressing...

Green District councillor John Marjoram had a letter in the Local Government Association magazine that covered some of this issue....he wrote:

How dare Cllr Peter Doyle even imply that the Planning Inspectorate is in any way responsible for the mayhem of the current planning (non) system. I speak as someone who has been on a planning committee for 26 years. When it came into power, the Coalition launched a virtual ‘shock and awe' approach to planning, tearing up 64 years of evolved planning legislation. In its place came the National Planning Policy Framework, which the Daily Telegraph maintained was drafted by major developers! Gone was the emphasis on community consideration, replaced by a priority towards developers. The first part of the Government's planning statement talks about "building a strong competitive economy". 

Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust, spoke recently of a "virtual collapse" of the planning system and people "fighting random development especially in the countryside". This can only be tackled by proper planning. It is estimated that under half of all local authorities have a new local plan adopted because of the short time that the Coalition gave for their completion. Failure to have a plan adopted means that 60 to 70 per cent of land in England is not now protected from uncontrolled development. Does this Coalition really want to be remembered for its wanton destruction of our green and pleasant land in the drive to kick-start the economy!?
Parish meeting

Anyway I've gone on longer that I meant in this blog, Neil left the meeting and the normal Parish Council business continued until nearly 10pm....a big welcome to new Parish Councillor, Ruscombe resident, Charlie Curnow...he was co-opted last night. The Parish Council minutes will be out soon but many issues discussed including my brief summary of issues from teh District Council incling the new tenants forum, repairs to the war memorial, dogs off leads in the Playing Field area, Field and Victory Roads being blocked to Emergency vehicles by parked cars, a couple of planning applications, a challenge to the Government plans to cap Parish precepts and lots more...apols must dash now as meeting at Ebley Mill re the new committee system....

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