In our December edition of CroxleyNews the Croxley Green Residents’ Association used their column space to write a letter to Gagan Mohindra MP.
Barry Grant, chairman of the residents’ association, included a letter addressing the high housing target for the area and the threat to Croxley’s precious green belt land.
The residents’ association also invited Gagan Mohindra MP to use his column in the January edition of Croxley News to respond to which he accepted.
You can find the column on page 30 of our January edition, but we have also included the full version below:
FAO Mr Barry Grant, Chairman, Croxley Green Residents Association
Dear Mr Grant,
I hope you had a good Christmas and I wish you and all of the residents of South West Hertfordshire a Happy New Year.
Firstly, I want to thank you for writing an open letter to me via My Croxley News. I do take interest in local planning matters and carefully read any comments I receive to keep up to date with developments in the area.
By way of background, I spent over 15 years in local government prior to becoming the Member of Parliament for South West Hertfordshire. My most recent councillor role was Chairman of a Planning Committee. In all the years I have been involved in politics, my style is not to shout the loudest but to use my efforts to most positively impact policy. In recent times, this has meant frequent conversations with ministerial colleagues in Government, especially about planning policy that affects development both in our local area and nationally. I am not afraid to be frank and honest when passing on the concerns of my constituents and can assure you that I have done so many times. As you may be aware, as a Member of Parliament I am not able to dictate or intervene in local planning matters or decisions, as those fall squarely under the jurisdiction of the local authority. Although a councillor for many years, I am strongly resisting becoming a “super councillor”. Regardless of which party leads the local authority or the national government, local planning issues, in my view, must be handled by the local authority independently of government interference as long as current policies are being adhered too.
I believe it is vital, when any development takes place, that the local community is consulted and can have a say. That is why I believe Three Rivers District Council is right to continue on its path to getting a Local Plan approved and adopted. The Regulation 18 planning process gives residents the chance to raise issues and concerns about the development of every site identified in the draft Local Plan. It allows constituents to influence the final version of the Local Plan before it is passed to the independent Planning Inspector for assessment.
As I have said many times, without an adopted Local Plan, our communities are at risk of inappropriate developments. The Local Plan policy has been around for many years and, although we may not like it or agree with it, will be the system that immediately affects us. The recent consultations on planning reform, if they had moved forward, would not have taken effect for a few years, too long in my opinion to avoid “bad” development. I know that Chiltern and South Bucks Council has made the decision not to publish a Local Plan; I do not believe this is the right approach. It is a statutory requirement for the Council to review the Local Plan every five years, and in not doing so, I believe the Chiltern and South Bucks Council is not providing the independent Planning Inspector with up-to-date information to make planning decisions on.
I fully appreciate your concerns about the Green Belt, of which I too am a passionate advocate. I want to preserve the environment here in our community, and I would strongly encourage every reader to contribute towards the consultation to ensure the Council is aware of everyone’s views.
From a policy perspective, I agree it is important that homes are built where they are most needed, and that our local councils make plans to ensure land is available to do so. After all, it cannot be right that families and young people are unable to get on the housing ladder simply because of lack of supply or prices are too high. That is why I welcome the renewed focus and investment toward brownfield sites, which will help deliver more housing while protecting green spaces and making the best use of existing infrastructure. It is worth stressing that Local Plans are not just about housing – they should be the plan for what our community is in the future including areas of work, transport, schools and other local facilities. With an adopted Local Plan, we would have more control and, just as importantly, the ability to finance infrastructure, ideally in advance of new homes, via S106s or CIL.
Following a consultation, similar to the one I am urging residents to engage in above, the proposed planning reforms on the new standard method that you mention in your letter have been amended to refocus the current method on urban centres. To reiterate, the public have engaged in the consultation process which has been altered as a result of their concerns.
The Local Housing Need will be increased by 35 per cent for areas with the largest proportion of the 20 most populated cities and urban centres in England. This is because urban areas already have better infrastructure in place, such as schools, shops and medical facilities, to support more residential development and population growth. It also makes good use of existing brownfield sites concentrated in urban areas while protecting our green spaces and countryside from development. Moreover, urban centres provide better access to sustainable forms of transport and contribute to our national effort to address climate change. This is my view. It is worth noting that of these 20 most populated cities and urban centres in England, none are in the constituency of South West Hertfordshire.
I hope this clarifies my position. Local residents must engage in the Local Plan if they wish to influence local planning matters. The planning system is rightly set up so that one person, for instance myself as the local MP, cannot make decisions relating to individual planning matters. At a National level, where members of the public have engaged in consultations, plans have been altered to take their concerns into consideration. I will continue to urge my neighbours and friends and anyone else that cares to listen to engage in planning consultations. These exercises have a meaningful impact.
Thank you again for writing. I appreciate this is a very important local issue and I will continue to treat the matter with the utmost care and consideration.
It is a great honour to be the Member of Parliament for South West Hertfordshire and it is not a responsibility I take lightly.
Keep safe and kind regards,
Gagan Mohindra MP