The Conservative-led Government is having a negative impact on our communities through overriding decisions on planning matters and giving the community little say in what is developed in their area. It was Conservative policy to rewrite planning law which has left us exposed to an aggressive campaign by developers to build on green open spaces and green belt land in Walkden, Worsley and Irlam.
I have always felt that the planning system is loaded in favour of developers and against the interests of communities. If people object to a planning development they find that developers can keep putting in new applications and can appeal any decisions that go against them. This could have been changed if the Government had allowed a Community Right of Appeal in the Localism Bill, but they did not.
Now we find that the Conservative Communities Secretary is taking more powers to force through decisions, most of which go against what the community wants. First he ignored his own planning inspector to give permission for 350 houses on land at Burgess Farm in Walkden. Now he is taking powers to decide an appeal on a planning application to build 600 houses on green open space at Broadoak in Worsley.
A Government inspector even overrode Salford planning panel’s decision not to allow extended opening hours for a shop in a residential street. This decision means that the shop can now have 24-hour opening, despite being in a narrow street in a residential area.
Conservative Ministers are also forcing the pace in allowing controversial drilling operations for shale gas. The Prime Minister has said he is “determined to win” the debate on shale gas. Government changes to the system for giving permits for shale gas drilling leave councils unable to consider important issues such as seismic activity, flaring and venting of gas and impact on groundwater supplies.
It is time that the Government stopped interfering in local decision-making and gave power to local communities to have a say. Labour would give more power, more responsibility and more rights to people on planning decisions which affect their area.