Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West at the site of West Harrow allotments overlooking 265, The Ridgeway – the site of a contentious planning application which has amassed huge public response
Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West at the site of West Harrow allotments overlooking 265, The Ridgeway – the site of a contentious planning application which has amassed huge public response

Harrow West MP, Gareth Thomas has joined local Councillors and leading sector bodies in denouncing the planning overhaul announced in last Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech

Planning reforms included in last Tuesday’s Queen’s speech have been denounced as
a “complete disaster in the making” that will lead to “more slum housing built to maximise profits” by one of the country’s leading sector bodies.

In what is described as planning changes that will “ride roughshod over the voices of local people and businesses”, the Government have announced a Planning Bill that will create a “simpler, faster and more modern planning system”, to ensure “homes and infrastructure can be delivered more quickly”.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGIU, questioned planning proposals as outlined in the Queen’s Speech and Planning White Paper, saying: “Everyone agrees that we need to build many, many more houses in this country. It’s less clear that planning is what is preventing us from doing so. These proposals leave local government with the political liability on planning whilst depriving them, and by extension the communities they represent, of the powers to manage it effectively.”

Concerns were raised by Harrow West MP Gareth Thomas in the House of Commons on Wednesday, outlining the impact on accountability and oversight as well as the effect this would have on building “the right sort of homes, in the right standard, in the right places.”

Gareth Thomas MP said:

“This will drastically reduce the role of council and communities, such as those in my constituency, making it even harder to stop completely inappropriate developments such as 265, The Ridgeway or the 16 storey Aparthotel in West Harrow. Ministers urgently need to think again.”

Deputy Leader of Harrow Council, Cllr Natasha Proctor said:

“Nearly 2000 planning applications are made in Harrow each year. If the Conservatives’ plans go through, this community won’t get to have its say over a single one of them.

This community belongs to the people of Harrow. The idea that wealthy developers should be able to come in and build what they want over the heads of local people with no right of appeal is an outrage.

Under Boris Johnson the Conservative Party has received more than £11m in donations from wealthy developers. Now Boris Johnson is giving his developer donors exactly what they want, by changing the rules so they can ride roughshod over the voices of local people and businesses.”

Following recent local campaigns against a controversial planning application for a
potential “Apartment Hotel” on Vaughan Road, West Harrow Councillor Adam Swersky Said:

“Labour councillors have worked with local people to successfully oppose
inappropriate developments like the preposterous twelve story Vaughan Road Hotel. Under the new rules local people won’t get a say at all, and these inappropriate developments would have gone ahead.”

London Councils issued a statement from their executive member for housing and planning Darren Rodwell calling the planning overhaul “a complete disaster in the making”. “We’re desperate for more affordable housing in the capital – but these
reforms risk making the situation worse,” he said. The government says it will replace the ways developers fund affordable housing and infrastructure – such as the community infrastructure levy – “with a new, more predictable and more transparent levy”.

But London Councils warns this would leave councils with “very few mechanisms for
ensuring affordable housing targets are met”.

***ENDS***

There were 1,882 planning decisions in Harrow in 2020 (spreadsheet attached)
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-planning-applicationstatistics

The Conservatives have received more than £11m from developers under Boris Johnson
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-party-property-developer-borisjohnson-conservative-donors-a9588381.html

The Conservative Government’s intention to change planning rules to benefit developers were set out in ‘Planning for the Future’ in 2020, and were immediately branded a ‘Developers’ Charter’ by housing campaigners. The plans are due to return to Parliament after this year’s local elections.
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future

The current planning system is locally-led, with councils and the communities they represent given a say over the way their neighbourhoods develop, and all residents given the chance to object to development that is overbearing, impacts on their quality of life, or that is not accompanied by funding for necessary infrastructure (eg schools, roads, health services).

The ‘Developers’ Charter’ proposals would take away the right of local people to comment or object to development in their area, instead allowing the Secretary of State to grant
developers planning “permission in principle” without any local consultation on the
application. These changes to the planning system would help developers avoid contributions for affordable housing, local infrastructure, and avoid existing standards on good quality design, allowing them to rack up hundreds of millions of pounds extra profit without building any more homes. The Government is already relaxing ‘permitted development’ rules to allow developers to ignore space and amenity standards and turn high street shops and offices into homes, none of which have to be affordable, with campaigners warning that this is already creating a new wave of slum housing.

The proposals to remove local voices from the planning process have attracted widespread
criticism – except from developers. President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Alan Jones, branded the white paper’s proposals as “shameful”, the Campaign to Protect Rural England voiced concerns about community involvement, and the housing charity Shelter expressed concern at the reforms’ potential impact on social housing.

Gareth Thomas intervention in House of Commons:
https://twitter.com/GarethThomasMP/status/1392508395463364615?s=20

London Councils Press Release: https://beta.londoncouncils.gov.uk/news/2021/planningoverhaul-risks-disaster-london-councils-responds-planning-reforms-queens-speech

Local Government Chronicle on Planning Reforms:
https://www.lgcplus.com/services/regeneration-and-planning/queens-speech-planningreforms-denounced-as-complete-disaster-11-05-2021/

For more information please contact:

Rashmi Kalubowila 07908959205 – Gareth Thomas MP’s office

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