Meadow Vale – the plot thickens!

I have previously blogged about my opposition to the proposed housing development at Meadow Vale.

At a packed recent rally in Ovingdean with almost 500 people present, I joined Simon Kirby MP and Nancy Platts, Labour candidate for Kemptown in voicing opposition. At the time, I reported (weblink) that while there was unity from all parties against this development, there was disagreement about where the fault lay.

Simon Kirby MP and the local Tory councillors tried to imply that the (Green-led) Council was either to blame or likely to be so in the future. Nancy Platts and myself both blamed the Coalition’s Government’s new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for acting as a “developers charter” making Meadow Vale and similar developments more likely to succeed.

In a major development at the end of last week, however, the national Labour Party dropped a policy bombshell – they have done a U-Turn and said that if they form the next Government, they will not now repeal the NPPF.

This leaves Labour locally in somewhat of a pickle

I do not doubt the sincerity or integrity of Nancy Platts and her personal opposition to both Meadow Vale and the NPPF. But of course, it means that voting Labour in effect is a vote to retain the NPPF that makes Meadow Vale type developments much more likely to happen.

I cannot help but contrast this mess that Labour are in on this issue with the Green Party’s consistent stance. First, the Green-led Council did not include any of the 5 proposed Ovingdean housing developments in the City Plan. Sadly the Government inspector did not accept the Plan, leaving the door open for developers like Lightwood.

Second, Green Councillor Phelim McCafferty, chair of Planning successfully moved a motion at Brighton & Hove Council on 8 May opposing the NPPF. Here is a section of the speech Phelim made to the meeting about the NPPF:

“Because a government inspector has told us to look again for more housing and because of the primacy of the NPPF, there has been a 46% increase in the appeals lodged against planning application decisions. So if we don’t get a city plan agreed by the Inspector, I have a genuine worry about what will happen to the city. There were several lobbyists who appeared at our city plan examination in public last year including the Home Builders’ Federation who are back again and inquiring about land in the city. I fear that without an adopted city plan we can face unscrupulous developers who can cite the NPPF and get away with damaging our open space, our city scape and, as a city with the second largest number of listed buildings in the country, our historic built environment.”

“And in a dangerous precedent, the NPPF in practice means that the viability concerns of developers now come before and above environmental and social concerns. It is developers, and not local communities, who have been put at the heart of the Government’s reforms of the planning system. Councils are explicitly told by the NPPF that they should “grant permission where the plan is absent, silent, indeterminate or where relevant policies are out of date” (Para 14). So before permanent damage is done to our precious open space and the built environment in the city, our motion today insists that Mr Pickles and Mr Boles remove the presumption in favour of so-called ‘sustainable development’.”

“The NPPF….is a developer’s charter that will force the approval of virtually all proposals, whether or not local people, or local decision makers want them”

“Policies voted on at different meetings of the council by us councillors are not being given their due weight by the government inspector who instead is relying on the presumption in favour of sustainable development enshrined in the NPPF. Let us be clear: that means that there are fewer decisions being made on the basis of what we as councillors vote for and more decisions being made on what the government wants. So much for handing back power to local communities and Localism. Instead of delivering sustainable development and empowering local people, it is a developer’s charter that will force the approval of virtually all proposals, whether or not local people, or local decision makers want them. Today we say give back power to our communities and elected councillors to decide our own policies and our own priorities.”

What a shame then that Labour has capitulated to these same developers and decided to retain this centralist NPPF system. This seriously undermines their support to save Meadow Vale.

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