Today in Parliament!

An ‘online’ meeting with Anthony Mangnell, MP for the South Hams, organised by Totnes Councillor Georgina Allen, gave a number of Local Councillors and community groups the opportunity to present their serious concerns about the impact of the Government’s proposed dismantling of the local planning system, which are spelled out in their White Paper consultation Planning for the Future . The meeting came just before the Commons debated the proposals for the first time.

The South Hams District Council’s very critical response to the White Paper’s associated consultation ‘Changes to the Existing Planning System’ was also discussed.

The SHDC have noted that: “The algorithm (for calculating the area’s housing need) as a whole is not fit for purpose, is volatile on a yearly basis and
undermines rather than underpins the plan-led system due to the flawed
outputs it generates. It bears no relationship with actual need arising in places
and ignores sustainable distribution patterns.”

The deep concern about the new proposals is shared by Councils from Cornwall to Kent and all points north! East Devon District Council have made it clear that “This is quite a contrast to the position of the Conservative/Liberal democrat coalition Government when in 2010 Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles stated: “Communities will no longer have to endure the previous government’s failed Soviet tractor style top-down planning targets – they were a terrible, expensive, time-consuming way to impose house building and worst of all threatened the destruction of the green belt.” See pages: 35 – 73 for their proposed submission to the ‘Planning for the Future’ submission

Richard Daws, Newton Says No campaigner and District Councillor for the neighbouring ward of Ambrook in Teignbridge noted that the current planning system was already failing residents by ignoring their reasoned views. He observed that the Government’s proposals doubled down on this, with unsustainable increases in housing targets and a further reduction of community involvement in planning decisions, which would likely create a political ‘wind of change’. He pointed out that the Conservatives had celebrated the falling of the ‘Red Wall’ at the last General Election but, if they proceeded on the basis of the planning white paper as presented, they would likely see the ‘Blue Wall’ falling down in rural constituencies around the country in future elections! 

 Bob Seely MP opening the Parliamentary debate (8th October) said: “The 10 largest developers control 70% of supply. They withhold land to inflate value; while 80% of residential permissions are granted, half remain unbuilt and 900,000 permissions are outstanding. If just 10% of those were finished every year, the Government would be close to or on target. That raises two critical questions. First, is the problem with the system, or with the building firms that are abusing it, maybe because of the foolish laws being put in place? Secondly, do we need to scrap the current system and potentially face the law of unintended consequences, or do we need to reform it?”

He also said: “I think the Minister and I can both agree that the market is failing first-time buyers. The answer is not greenfield sprawl or unachievable targets, but a new generation of community-based, affordable housing, accompanied by creative rent-to-buy schemes accessible to first-time buyers in existing communities, whether in city, suburb or countryside.”

“We cannot keep ramming in housing without damaging our stewardship of the world. We must think long term, and not just until the next election.” Speaking about or protected countryside he also noted: “Our beauty has an economic as well as a moral value. Visitors spend half a billion pounds a year on the Island (his constituency) , and the greater the urban sprawl in the name of random algorithmic targets, the greater the damage to our economy, our quality of life and the intrinsic worth of our landscape and natural beauty. I fear that long-term overdevelopment in some parts of Britain is now destroying the things we love.”

The full Hansard record of the debate is here

History shows that as a country we have only ever delivered the scale of house building, now being sought, through massive public sector investment in house building such as that which occurred in the post war period It is only through similar investment and enabling local authorities to deliver high quality affordable housing that can meet the needs of the South Hams, that the housing crisis will truly be addressed.

The Local Government Association estimate that every £1 invested in a new social home generates £2.84 in the wider economy and that each new social home would generate a saving of £780 per year in Housing Benefit.

See the House of Lords briefing paper on social housing

Local planning ‘resources’ have been cut by 20% over the past decade and, it’s our experience that the long talked about crisis in housing is not caused by the  identified faults in the existing planning system – as is suggested in the Prime Minister’s introduction to the White Paper, but has been caused mainly by the failure of central government to implement the findings of its own housing reviews – as was the case, for example,  with the Letwin final ‘Build Out’ report  

If you are concerned about any of the issues raised in this post, you still have time to submit a response to the Planning for the Future  consultation which closes at 11:45 October 29th.

For more information, email:

Or write to: FOSH, Rathlyn, Grenville Rd, Salcombe, TQ8 8BJ

FOSH © 2021

This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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