Last week South Shropshire Planning Committee met for its routine monthly meeting. I had been contacted by constituents concerned about planning applications to build housing on two greenfield sites, one on a former school playing field used for years as the village green, seeking my help in resisting these developments.
Of course as the local MP I do not make planning decisions, as these are quite properly decided by Shropshire Council the statutory planning authority.
But whenever a constituent contacts me about a planning application, whether for or against, I ensure their comments are taken into account by the planning officers and relevant committee as appropriate, and encourage a site visit for the committee if contentious.
But I am keenly interested in ensuring that Shropshire Council gets its planning policies in place to comply with the National Planning Policy Framework.
In fact in April I arranged to meet the Planning Minister in Parliament with other Shropshire MPs, the Council's portfolio holder for planning and a senior planning officer to seek clarification about how Shropshire can do so as quickly as possible.
Each local authority is required to have a five year supply of deliverable land for housing and employment. In Shropshire this is being established through a lengthy process of consultation to determine its Site Allocation and Management of Development (SAMDev). The final consultation closed at the end of April and the Council is in the process of refining its views in response, prior to submitting to the Planning Inspectorate at the end of July.
The Planning Minister confirmed that once this SAMDev has been submitted it will demonstrate the authority's intent for development and will then become the definitive basis on which new development will be permitted.
He also confirmed to me that where a controversial planning application has been denied by a local Council, but is then appealed by the applicant, the decision-making power can be ‘recovered’ for determination by Ministers, rather than the planning inspectorate.
In a recent referendum in Much Wenlock the public voted strongly in support of a Neighbourhood Plan that will shape how SAMDev takes place there. Encouraging local participation in the planning process is the right way to gain public acceptance for local development, so I welcome this public support for the Neighbourhood Plan.
However, there have been some controversial speculative applications for development not included in SAMDev proposals, which threaten to undermine this local engagement. So to combat this, I am prepared to argue for Ministerial recovery on appeal of controversial applications not included in SAMDev, to give Shropshire Council greater confidence in determining speculative applications in the Ludlow constituency during this window until SAMDev has statutory effect.