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Wycombe MP highlights housing problems at Westminster debate
WYCOMBE MP Steve Baker has called for planning laws to be made simpler and for more affordable homes to be built for families and young people.
Mr Baker brought an adjournment debate to Westminster Hall on Wednesday about the public consent for local plans with regard to the Wycombe District Local Plan. Wycombe District Council is currently looking at the findings of a consultation on the plan, which will set out where best to accommodate homes, jobs and infrastructure in a sustainable way.
Mr Baker brought a number of issues to the debate in Westminster which have arisen from the plan.
He spoke about the scarcity of land in Wycombe for development and yet the acute need for homes for young people and families. He said more homes must be built, and built at reasonable prices with widespread public consent.
He said: "There is a real problem of despair among those who do not own homes, and there is also a clear need for public consent. We need to find a way forward because the current approach is failing for three key reasons.
"First, collaborative democracy is inherently unlikely ever to meet policy makers’ aspirations. Secondly, a duty to co-operate is not the right way to co-ordinate decision making and works against localism. Thirdly, the crux of the matter is that the current system leaves individuals and families facing the imposition of costs without adequate recompense."
There are four reserve sites in Wycombe which are highlighted in the consultation for proposed development- Abbey Barn north, Abbey Barn south, the Gomm valley and Terriers Farm He asked if the reserve sites could be designated as local green space and managed as for the green belt.
And he said out of the 3,800 local plan survey packs sent out by WDC, only 550 people replied.
He said the Government's green paper to make planning issues at the heart of the community is not working.
Mr Baker said: "In reality, the public either have too few incentives to get involved or have found that in practice the system excludes them from the involvement that they want: the power to avoid having costs imposed on them."
For example he said the Daws Hill Neighbourhood Forum wanted to have a say on the RAF Daws Hill and Wycombe Sports Centre sites, but the council ruled that neither of the two developments of interest to residents could be considered by the forum.
Mr Baker said there is a clear way forward: "In the short term, planning inspectors should accept local plans that meet the aims of the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] by protecting designated land, even if that means not building the full quantities of homes identified as being objectively needed.
"This is necessary to establish public confidence in the democratic legitimacy of the system.
"In the longer term, policy should give real power to the public, which means the power to say no, combined with proper incentives to say yes, including due compensation, without the public having to acquiesce to costs imposed by other people, including the long-term costs of losing beautiful, highly valued land."