Torridge District Council has just announced that it has at last achieved a Five-Year Housing Land Supply Plan (5YHLSP). These plans are intended to show there are enough sites allocated for development to allow for the housing needed to meet local requirements for the next five years.
It has been more than three years since the Council last possessed an up-to-date 5YHLSP.
This meant that developers could apply to build outside the agreed development boundaries set in a democratic and transparent process by local parishes and the council. When there is no such plan, national rules that commenced in 2006 created a presumption in favour of development. This has led to a proliferation of applications for development outside these locally agreed boundaries to the great and understandable chagrin of local people.
Over recent months, I have been meeting the Council for the Protection of Rural England, and some of our local communities affected.
Although I have been in regular discussion with TDC on the issue for some time, and I know that, despite difficulties, it had been working to remedy this long-standing deficiency, this is a situation that should not be repeated.
Therefore, I have strongly pressed the Government for the abolition of this requirement, and I am very glad it is indeed to be abolished imminently where there is an up-to-date local plan. Local communities should not be at the mercy of whether their council has been able to maintain a 5YHLSP, and local and neighbourhood plans should not be overridden in this way.
In future, we must ensure that housing targets can be influenced locally and that developers build on land on which they have secured planning consent within a reasonable time.
We should encourage local planning authorities to support community groups in developing affordable housing on “exception sites” in rural communities and properly consider the national interest in food security in their planning decisions.
We must promote better design and lower density of housing and take measures, such as the new infrastructure levy for which the Bill provides, to make sure of crucial infrastructure alongside any new housing. These are the objectives of the Levelling Up Bill, which is going through parliament.
Our rural communities and market towns, and the precious landscape in which we live, will always require protection The Government is currently considering how to allow new development of onshore wind turbines to take place but will permit it only where there is clearly demonstrable local consent. I believe that is the right way forward.
While other political parties want huge numbers of such turbines to be built, the genuine consent of local communities is essential. Readers will recall that by 2010-2102, Torridge was under the accumulated threat of dozens of giant wind turbine applications, which would have fundamentally changed the character of our landscape for decades before the government intervened to order a moratorium that has lasted ever since, while moving ahead strongly with offshore wind developments.
We must remain constantly vigilant to defend our countryside from similar threats and from those who would override the democratically expressed wishes and consent of local people.