Having power is not enough - we need to use it
Author: Steve Shaw, Local Works
Published on Sep 06, 2011
We’ve all known for years that our towns have been losing their identity to be replaced with a culture of convenience and generic developments. Yet as angry this makes us, it has been an ongoing national trend that we have felt powerless to stop. Our town and parish councils are on the front line without the weapons they need to withstand businesses set on expanding at the costs of our communities. But in 2007 a law was passed that could give us the essential weapons and legal powers we need to fight back - the Sustainable Communities Act.
Without continued pressure of activists on government this would not have happened. Together we have shown there is an appetite to reclaim our communities. Now we need to use this Act to empower our town and parish councils. A real problem for whom is major planning applications. Under resourced and under staffed they face assessing thousands of pages of technical documentation. In contrast those submitting applications are highly resourced and hence they invest heavily seeing opportunity for a big financial gain. Sadly as we have seen the real cost is our communities.
Faced with an application for a large Tesco, Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council in Suffolk have put forward a proposal to radically change the future of assessing planning applications. By turning the tables on planners and requiring them to attend meetings for questions as well as covering the costs of assessing the applications.
Local Works is working with parish and town councils to make this a nationwide change in powers they have to assess major planning applications. Over 1,100 parish and town councils have given their support to this proposal. The government have not been able to ignore this pressure. Local Works are now in talks with senior Whitehall civil servants.
What seemed like a ‘long shot’ now looks to have a real chance of success. What could now sway this is a show of broad support - You can make the difference!
IT IS TIME TO TAKE ACTION - WE NEED YOUR HELP
MPs have just returned to Parliament from their summer break. It would be great if you could contact your MP asking them to write to the Localism Minister, Greg Clark, asking him to agree the proposal.
HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
1. Write to, or email, your MP asking them to ‘Please write to Localism Minister, Greg Clark, asking him to please agree to implement the Sustainable Communities Act planning reform proposal submitted by Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council.’
and if you have time…
2. Write to, or email, Greg Clark asking him to ‘Please agree to implement the Sustainable Communities Act planning reform proposal submitted by Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council.’
3. Contact your local group and organise a letter writing day.
Find your MP’s contact details here: http://www.writetothem.com. Greg Clark’s address is: Greg Clark MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA or email him at email@example.com
Further information and background
We have had an amazing number of responses from many town and parish councils where they have described the boxes of documents they receive when having to consider large planning applications - the problem is clearly happening all over the country.
The proposal enables and empowers councils if they wish, they are not required to do anything. It would help councillors when making recommendations on large planning applications.
The full proposal can be viewed here: http://www.localworks.org/node/135