Sir Oliver Heald pushes for stronger neighbourhood rights in planning matters

MP for North East Hertfordshire, Sir Oliver Heald and MPs Nick Herbert, Sir Nicholas Soames, and Dr Liam Fox tabled amendments calling for Neighbourhood Plans to be given stronger force, in a debate in the House of Commons on the Housing and Planning Bill. The amendments would have allowed a neighbourhood right of appeal where a planning permission was granted in breach of the neighbourhood plan.

Sussex MP Nick Herbert explained that “neighbourhood plans can be undermined by speculative developments that are granted planning permission but that run contrary to those plans”.

Sir Oliver intervened in support, saying “So many people in towns such as Buntingford and the villages in my constituency spend so much time surveying opinion and considering all the aspects of the heritage of their village in order to come up with a neighbourhood plan for their community… it is wrong that that can then be trashed by an application by a speculative developer. These plans need to have a proper place and proper respect.”

In reply, the Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said that “the Government places great importance on neighbourhood plans”, and that “the law is clear: decisions should be made in accordance with the development plan [which includes the Neighbourhood Plan], with material considerations taken into account.” He also explained that planning applications could be called in by Ministers, if not in accordance and that this was being strengthened, giving protection.

Commenting afterwards, Sir Oliver said, “I am glad to have been able to make this important point on the floor of the House of Commons. The Government can be in no doubt of the depth of feeling and the determination of the people of North East Hertfordshire to have their say on planning matters in their communities, and I will continue to press for their voices to be heard. Where people have worked so hard on a neighbourhood plan, it should be the deciding factor.”

NB: Buntingford’s planning applications and appeals were called in by the Minister following representatations by Sir Oliver and local councillors and the decisions are awaited.

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