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Luff hits out at housing policy
A FORMER minister is adding his voice to calls for muddled government house-building to be shaken up and properly thought through.
Peter Luff , MP for Mid Worcestershire, who resigned as a defence minister in the reshuffle earlier this month, says he is now free to speak his mind over the “bizarre” situation the Government has created. He was speaking after the Government further relaxed rules for housebuilders.
Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, has also threatened to strip councils of their powers to determine planning bids if they do not deliver enough permissions. But Mr Luff says the Government should not paint the building of new homes as some sacred cow which will inject the economy with a burst of growth.
He said: “The Government thinks there is a shortage of supply of land when the real issue is a shortage of demand for houses.
“If building houses were the answer to a maiden’s prayer when it comes to economic growth, then Spain and Ireland would be booming – not bust.”
He said the Government needed to stick to its pledge, by killing off the old national housing targets (regional spatial strategies) as planning inspectors were still using these dated figures in their rulings on new planning appeals.
Otherwise, he believes developers will win permission for unsustainable housing estates, in the wrong locations, which goes against the Government’s own planning policy.
Planners at Wychavon District Council , in Mr Luff’s constituency, say they are in a no-win situation, because they can refuse a housing development only for a planning inspector to wave it through on appeal, relying on housing targets over which the council has no control. Councillor Judy Pearce said: “We haven’t granted this many permissions since 1998. We feel like every time we get anywhere, the goalposts are moved.”
The problem is prompting rising anger among residents in places like Wychbold, near Droitwich, and Bretforton, near Evesham. Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA) Sir Merrick Cockell, predicted the current situation could fatally undermine public confidence in a fair planning system. “The Government has to be careful to avoid creating a situation which could mire future planning decisions in acrimonious challenges and judicial reviews which could slow the planning approval process,” he said.