DCLG Select Committee to Investigate Joint Plan Making In Glocestershire

SW Business

A powerful committee of MPs will grill council leaders and campaigners on Monday to find out what they think of the Government’s controversial planning bible.

A Commons select committee will meet in Cheltenham’s Municipal Offices to hear evidence of the impact the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has had “on the ground”.

The NPPF was designed to cut red tape and promote growth by making planning rules simpler but critics have labelled the document a ‘developers’ charter’.

The MPs have chosen Gloucestershire for their fourth public hearing because of the way in which Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Gloucester councils have worked together to come up with a major development blueprint known as the joint core strategy (JCS).

The JCS sets out where more than 30,000 homes will be built between 2011 and 2031.

The leader of Tewkesbury Borough Council, Councillor Robert Vines, is one of six people due to give evidence.

He said: “It looks likely that we will be asked how we have managed to produce a joint plan in light of the difficulties that many areas have faced with the new National Planning Policy Framework.

“Not only have we worked through political differences, but we’ve produced what we consider to be a sound plan that will appropriately guide development until 2031.

“It hasn’t been an easy journey and we will raise the issues we have come across collectively that highlight limitations of the NPPF and the guidance, especially around issues of greenbelt and defining the housing need for our areas.”

Councillor Steve Jordan, leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, and Councillor Gerald Dee, from Gloucester City Council, will also be asked questions along with three representatives of local campaign groups.

Ian Bickerton, the chairman of Leckhampton Green Land Action Group (Leglag), will be giving evidence to the committee on behalf of Cheltenham Alliance.

He doesn’t think there are any problems with the NPPF but there is a problem with the way in which it is being implemented.

He said: “The document has been kept quite small for the purpose of allowing the public to engage. It has been simplified and the thousands of pages have gone and that is a good thing.

“But the planning inspectorate needs to make sure best practice for calculating the objectively assessed need for housing is clear. At the moment every council is just doing its own thing.”

The public hearing will start at 4pm.

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