Simon Galton

Liberal Democrat County & District Councillor Learn more

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Planning Disarray in Harborough District!

by simongalton on 6 March, 2015

Control over planning decisions in Harborough District has reached a crisis point after shock new figures show that 700 houses will have to be built each year if the Council is to meet its new 5 year housing target. The news came after the Conservatives on the Council’s Executive Committee agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between all the Councils in Leicestershire which has seen Harborough’s figure increase from 350 per year to a massive 475. An additional buffer of 20% has been added plus the shortfall in delivery since 2011 due to what Council officers say is “persistent under delivery” by the Council in recent years. Over the next 5 years land will have to be found for 3,500 houses if the Council is to catch up by 2019!

The Council got into difficulties last May when an appeal decision by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles changed the situation in the District dramatically and resulted in the Council being unable to prove it had a 5 year supply of housing sites based on 350 per year. Pickles said he believed Harborough’s figure should be 440 per year. The Council has agreed to a further increase without seeing any detailed reports on whether our roads and other infrastructure can cope with thousands of extra houses.

The consequences of these changes to planning rules are proving catastrophic for the Countryside across the District as developers rush to exploit a loophole in National Planning Guidance which allows them to bypass local planning controls and gain permission for large housing developments on green field sites. Planning officers are now recommending approval of virtually every application on the grounds that the Council’s housing delivery policies are out of date. Instead of challenging the situation, Tory councillors on the Planning Committee seem to have thrown in the towel and are no longer willing to reject applications they had previously voted to refuse.

Harborough has some of the best Countryside in England and the highest number of Conservation areas in the Region. Tory Councillors should not be accepting these huge increases before they know whether the District can accommodate this level of growth without causing serious harm to the character of the area. They should be using their majority on the Council to challenge the situation and lobby for changes to the planning system as Lib Dem Cllrs are doing both locally and at national level. We are not against new housing but it needs to be controlled and managed to ensure it does not have an unacceptable impact on existing communities and the unique landscape character of the District.

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