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I will be brief, to allow other Members to speak. We clearly need more time to debate major Bills such as this on Report. It does us no credit that we have insufficient time.
I rise to speak to new clauses 12 and 20. New clause 12 is supported by more than 20 of my right hon. and hon. Friends and would abolish the Planning Inspectorate, and new clause 20 would create a new community right of appeal against adverse planning decisions.
I believe that the Localism Act 2011 was one of this Government’s most important pieces of legislation. It gives communities power, and the provisions on community assets are one example of that. I welcome the Government’s proposals to strengthen those provisions so that pubs may be protected, which is a sensible way forward. I also welcome the development of neighbourhood plans, which, as the Minister said, are now proceeding well, with community support, including in my constituency. They give the local community the power to decide where developments should go.
However, that plan-led system can sometimes be a developer-led system, which is not what we want. Localism can be undermined, especially by decisions of the Planning Inspectorate. In a good report issued before Christmas, the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government said that it had received a great deal of evidence that the national planning policy framework
“is not preventing unsustainable development in some places” and that
“inappropriate housing is being imposed upon some communities as a result of speculative planning applications.”
Such speculative applications, put in against the wishes of communities drawing up neighbourhood plans, are particularly damaging. Developers know that they have an opportunity to get permission for sites that they would not get permission for were the neighbourhood plan to go through. Too often, the Planning Inspectorate either upholds on appeal a local authority’s decisions to decline those applications or terrifies the local authority into submission, so that it gives permission because it knows that otherwise it would lose an appeal and would have to spend a great deal of money on doing so.