ALL Members of Parliament are keenly interested in local land use decisions which always arouse public interest. Local decisions on planning matters are the responsibility of councils but planning law is a matter for Parliament.
I am determined that the system must improve. I strongly believe land use decisions should serve the general interest of residents by consent. We should not have targets for business development or housing imposed upon us.
Quite understandably, people are protective of the area where they live and do not welcome unwanted change, which they often feel is forced upon them. Planning law as it stands has to take into account many different competing demands, be these at a local, national and even international level. For example, efforts towards ‘sustainability’ can often be traced to the United Nations’ Agenda 21. This in turn shapes planning law in this country, so that even Wycombe District Council has to take it into account when deciding on a planning application.
It is no wonder the ordinary person feels powerless to affect their local community when so much of the decision-making framework is so removed.
In High Wycombe, significant infrastructure improvements – especially to our roads - would often be needed before any development could be considered acceptable. The topography of High Wycombe creates its own challenges – most people prefer to use cars to travel as the steep hills are not kind to walkers and cyclists, and at the same time the road network is limited by the shape of the valley in which the town is situated.
From what has happened at Daws Hill, I appreciate the Localism Act has not gone as far as I would have liked. I wanted neighbourhoods and home owners to have real power over the decisions affecting them.
Every inch of green space is precious and the value we place on it should be reflected in decisions. During the Easter Parliamentary recess, I have met a number of local people who have a deep understanding of the planning system as it exists at the moment. I have listened to what they have to say and when Parliament resumes, I intend to bring forward some proposals for a change to allow ordinary people much greater influence in the planning system as it affects their lives.