Harrogate MP backs 'pause' on controversial planning reforms and calls for energy efficiency to be part of new rules on housing
Harrogate and Knaresborough's MP has welcomed Michael Gove's announcement of a delay to controversial planning reforms and is also calling on the Government to enshrine in law energy efficiency in all new homes and other buildings.
Andrew Jones MP's comments follow the announcement by new housing secretary Michael Gove that he was revisiting some of the important details of the Government's forthcoming Planning Bill.
The proposals were designed to simplify the planning system making it easier to protect land from development and to streamline the process in areas where development was permitted.
But doubts were growing not only among councillors and the public but sections of the Government MPs themselves whether the reforms would, in reality, prevent development in previously unallocated sites.
There were also fears over the lack of control over what would happen on sites that had already been allocated and worries over the presumption in favour of development.
An article in The Times suggested recently the Planning Bill, which is due to go before Parliament later this year, could remove major planning reforms proposed by the Government in its planning white paper last summer - including scrapping the original idea of introducing a zonal planning system and mandatory housebuilding targets for local authorities.
Andrew Jones MP said: “The planning system needs reforming; that much is very clear. I am contacted frequently by constituents who want their children and grandchildren to be able to get on the property ladder or live nearby but they are priced out of the market.
"We need people who work here in lower paid sectors to be able to afford to live here too so that they don’t have to commute with all the pollution those car journeys bring.
“We need to respect the development limits of our towns and villages.
"The materials used in developments which are granted need to be subject to greater control to complement better the surrounding development particularly in places like Harrogate, Knaresborough and Boroughbridge which have a distinctive and admired built heritage.
The Harrogate and Knaresborough MP has gone further than merely distancing himself from elements of the Planning Bill and supporting the interests of residents and retaining local accountability over planning.
He also said England's planning system should in future have a greater emphasis on environmental issues, too.
Mr Jones said: "The technology exists, and has for some time, to reduce significantly our domestic reliance on fossil fuels for heating.
"We need to enshrine in law energy efficiency in new homes and other buildings.
"I want to see this technology installed in new homes as a matter of planning policy to help us protect our environment by hitting our carbon reduction obligations.
“That is why I support looking again at changes to the planning system and I have shared my views with ministers.”
The Government's pause to the Planning Bill has also been welcomed by countryside charity, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive at countryside charity CPRE, said: “This reported pause to the Government’s deeply unpopular changes to planning says one thing – you simply can’t cut out local voices when trying to decide what gets built where."
The planning reforms were blamed by some for the Conservatives' defeat in the Chesham and Amersham by-election in June where voters, reportedly, feared the proposals would reduce green belt protection in the Chilterns.