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New Clause 14 — Expenditure of Greater London Authority on housing or regeneration

Part of Infrastructure Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 26th January 2015.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Conservative, Sutton Coldfield 7:15 pm, 26th January 2015

I rise to support two of the provisions tabled and ably espoused by my right hon. Friend Nick Herbert. The first is new clause 12, where he has put the case succinctly; after all, we made a manifesto commitment to abolish the Planning Inspectorate. I also want to draw the House’s attention to the fact that the inspectorate is not taking sufficient account of local feelings in the judgments it makes.

I particularly wish to draw the Minister’s attention to new clause 20, which, as my right hon. Friend has said, builds on our localism agenda. The limited right of appeal to the Secretary of State is extremely important and would be of great benefit to my constituents in Sutton Coldfield, where there is massive opposition to the proposition that we should build between 5,000 and 6,000 homes on its green belt. Yet that opposition, expressed in marches across the countryside as well as in public meetings, has been entirely ignored by the local authority.

In proposed new subsection (2B), my right hon. Friend points out the importance of

“ward councillors for the area who have lodged a formal objection to the planning application in writing to the planning authority, or where there is more than one councillor, all councillors by unanimity”.

Giving that degree of local support to what the local community want is extremely important. I believe and hope that the Minister, perhaps on Third Reading, will be able to give my constituents some comfort on that.

The opportunity of genuine community involvement should be built in at every stage of planning the process; there should not just be the one-off chance that those responsible for development can choose either to respond or to ignore. Recently, when the inspector held an oral hearing at which I was able to give evidence on behalf of my constituents, he asked for more evidence to be adduced on the requirement for the colossal amount of building involved. We have always argued that there was not sufficient evidence to build on Sutton Coldfield’s green belt, particularly in respect of the inward immigration figures in the area. We draw some comfort from the decision by the Planning Inspectorate, but it is extremely important that the local community is able to have far more say than we do at that moment, at this important juncture in the life of the royal town of Sutton Coldfield.