Richard intervened at the meeting of Sutton Council on 22 November, expressing his concern at the Government’s failure to withdraw its White Paper on changes to the planning system, and the threats to responsible planning in Sutton that these proposals represented.

During his eleven years as a Councillor one of his main preoccupations has been the quality and impact of development in the Ward. The current planning system involves local consultation and provides Councillors with opportunities to oppose developments that are inappropriate. At present there are two sets of proposals for major blocks of flats and tower blocks in Brighton Road that raise problems, particularly related to parking.

We are both concerned that the Government’s proposals increase the targets for new housing to a level that would require intensification of development in suburban areas, reduce requirements for affordable housing and remove requirements for consultation with the local community in some circumstances.

It was found that the recent Liberal Democrat victory in the Chesham and Amersham by-election was in part attributable to public concern over these proposals. We had hoped that pressure on the Government to have a re-think will succeed.

This is what Richard said in the debate on this issue at the Sutton Council meeting on 12 July:

“What is great about Sutton is good schools, low crime and its pleasant, green, suburban feel. That pleasant suburban feel depends on a robust development control system that responds to what our residents want. Local democracy and local consultation on planning proposals are vital to maintaining the key elements – good standards of building and design, and the protection of the street scene.

I can take you on a tour of planning mistakes in my Ward, Sutton South, that have occurred when local democracy has been over-ridden – when the remote Planning Inspectorate in Bristol has overturned democratic local decision. Now, we have proposals from the Government that would mean that in certain areas developers would get automatic consent to planning applications without there being any process of consultation with local people, the voices and opinions of local people removed from the process. This is at a moment, in Sutton South Ward, when we are grappling with two proposed major developments, tower blocks, along Brighton Road, but with the possibility that the views of local residents will not even be sought. These Government proposals will run a coach and horses through the local democracy elements of the planning system. They are a charter for developers to make large profits building slum housing, while ignoring and side-lining the views of the local community. This continues a process of undermining the local democracy aspects of the system, already undermined by the Government’s extension, over the years, of rights of permitted development. They are based on a view that sees, somehow, the requirement to consult the community as being a brake on necessary development. That is nonsense – what the planning system does is ensure acceptable standards are met. We want to retain a system that, while it has defects, lets local people have a democratic say on what is built locally. That is too important a right for us to lose. “

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