Westferry Printworks Development

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:15 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Angela Richardson Angela Richardson Conservative, Guildford 3:15 pm, 24th June 2020

It was a pleasure to hear the much anticipated maiden speech of my hon. Friend Mark Eastwood. He has made his mum proud, and I am sure he will make his constituents proud and serve them well in this place.

A safe habitable home is not a want; it is a need—one of the most basic needs that we have as human beings—and all of us in public life have a duty to work towards the goal of making that a reality for everyone in the communities we live in. The sensationalist allegations that have been made over the last few weeks in order to deflect from a political failure of delivery at a local level serve no one well, least of all those who need housing. Those of us in public life also have a duty to uphold our code of conduct at all levels of government and to abide by the Nolan principles of public life, including integrity, honesty and openness. In releasing the correspondence later today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing has also displayed accountability, another of these fundamental principles.

Before I became a Member of Parliament, I was a local councillor in the thriving village of Cranleigh, and sat on the neighbourhood planning committee and the planning committee, where we heard applications large and small. Deciding the best way to use our space is an important role and one that impacts on everyone. Hand in hand with planning and building new homes, be they large or small developments, this needs careful and joined-up thinking as to how to mitigate impact, protect our environment and have the necessary infrastructure in place in utilities, schools, medical facilities, green spaces, allotments, green technology and so on.

Even though our principles instruct us to always be open and transparent, which is fundamentally right, as someone who ventured into public life with no knowledge of planning, I found and still find that the language of planning can be opaque and obscure. It is littered with acronyms such as SHLAA—strategic housing land availability assessment—or, if you like your BAPs, biodiversity action plans. Those who inhabit the world of local councils speak in this language, which, rather than being inclusive, can leave residents feeling excluded.

Our role as public servants should be to demystify the process all the way from the application for planning permission through to and including how, why and when an application makes its way from where it sits with the local authority to determine, in accordance with its local plan, all the way up to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, including understanding that the Secretary of State has no fear of stepping in when a local authority puts off determining an application, as in this case, and runs out of time.

This Conservative Government are determined to maintain public confidence in our planning process and, most crucially, deliver on the housing we need. I stood on a manifesto commitment to deliver on housing, and I stood locally on a pledge to make sure we could have the right homes in the right place at the right price for local people, and to tackle homelessness. I welcome the announcement today of an additional £105 million to help with rough sleeping, and I am determined to help build bounce-back Britain and see us thrive once again.