In a debate in Westminster Hall a couple of days ago, David Heath MP led a consideration of the impact of the planning reforms introduced by the NPPF. Most of the participating MPs came from north, north-west and south-west constituencies, many were Tories. Not one from a Surrey constituency – don’t tell me, too busy on ministerial duties, too much under the influence of the whips office, don’t want to be members of the ‘awkward squad’.
Of those that spoke, many have constituencies where most, if not all, of their villages are threatened with levels of development similar to those embodied in the Guildford Borough Council Draft Local Plan consultation evidence documents; time and again they complained of how the Planning Inspectorate is riding roughshod over the wishes of local people, their Parish Councils and their Local Planning Authorities [LPA] because of the poorly defined plan-making process of the NPPF and the confusing nature and poor quality of population forward-estimates emanating from the Office of National Statistics [ONS] that LPAs have to rely on when developing their Strategic Market Housing Area Assessment [SHMAA] evidence base. All recognised that the aspiration to “localism” in recent legislation is a sham and that citizens are being disenfranchised by the impact of the NPPF.
Nick Boles MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) eventually turned up to give the ministerial response towards the end of the debate. Many assurances were given regarding the forthcoming revised NPPF-guidance but MPs such as Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-upon-Avon) were unconvinced, as we should be.