Michael Fabricant today unveiled new proposals from the Conservative Party to transform the planning system in Lichfield and elsewhere. He says: "Planning is an emotive topic, generating a vast amount of correspondence for MPs and councillors alike. The current planning process is weighted against local communities and residents. The system is centralised and bureaucratic, and increasingly results in the Secretary of State overriding the wishes of our local councils, forcing unwanted planning decisions on local communities. As we know, John Prescott is trying to impose 5000 new homes in the Lichfield area which could destroy the green belt and the unique sense of community in the City. I do not want to see south Staffordshire concreted over or Lichfield become a northern suburb of Birmingham.
"Conservatives pledge the biggest overhaul of the planning system for fifty years, giving power back to the residents of Staffordshire away from the bureaucrats in Whitehall.
"The key proposals from the Conservatives include Local Discretion on Local Development: Conservatives will abolish regional and national housebuilding targets. Regional planning guidance will also be abolished. The power of the Secretary of State to interfere in planning appeals will be removed. Instead, local communities will decide on the appropriate level of development in their local area. Labour’s diktats forcing more housebuilding on the countryside will be replaced with an emphasis by the Conservatives on
urban regeneration – making existing towns and cities a more attractive place to live.
"Encouraging Local Materials & Local Architecture: Conservatives want to restore the sense of character and local identity in towns and villages. Local councils will be allowed to specify that new developments must use specified local materials or conform to local architecture. This will prevent a country of identikit, uniform homes, and will ensure that new developments are in keeping with local neighbourhoods.
"A Right of Counter Appeal: Conservatives will introduce a level playing field on planning. Currently, big developers are able to bully and out-spend local communities, taking a proposed development to (expensive) appeals. Conservatives will streamline the appeals system to make it quicker and more accessible. Local residents will also be given the right of counter-appeal: being able to appeal against a new development if the development contradicts a councils’ local development plan or if the plan was silent on a big development. This will give new powers to local communities to protect their neighbourhoods from inappropriate development."