There was a major win this week on the Levelling Up Bill currently going through Parliament with the announcement that following pressure from a large number of Conservative MPs, including me, the Government is dropping mandatory housebuilding targets. This had put local councils between a rock and a hard place when it came to delivering a considerable number of new houses in places like Adur where remaining open spaces are at a premium and infrastructure like roads is creaking.
Secretary of State Michael Gove announced significant get-outs where there are genuine local constraints. He specifically cited that local planning authorities will be able to plan for fewer houses if building is constrained by important factors such as national parks, heritage restrictions, and areas of high flood risk. Councils will not be expected to build developments at densities that would be wholly out of character with existing areas or which would lead to a significant change of character, for example, new blocks of high-rise flats which are entirely inappropriate in a low-rise neighbourhood.
That is obviously of direct benefit to places like Shoreham where the high-density applications along Shoreham Harbour in particular have been causing considerable concern and over 52% of the Adur District falls within the South Downs National Park where the Council does not have planning control and development is severely restricted. That is not to say that we do not need a substantial housebuilding programme going forward to meet demand, but it should be in the right places without ruining the environment for both existing and future residents.
I was delighted to welcome the Southwick Camera Club back to Westminster for the opening of this year’s Parliamentary Photographic Exhibition where I took over the chairmanship of the All-Party Group from the late Sir David Amess. There was certainly some artistic talent on display (including my own modest efforts!) and I was able to give the members a quick tour round Westminster afterwards. Look forward to seeing you at the Shoreham Christmas Farmer’s Market Street surgery this Saturday.