Another post? So soon after you wrote your last one? Haven’t you got a birthday to celebrate tomorrow? What with this fervant need to tell us more stuff?
Still yourself, dear reader. I have an early birthday present and I simply can’t let it wait till I’m over 38 years old before I tell you. Before I start, grab a cup of tea, and get comfy. If your name is Anna Soubry MP, do the same, put perhaps substitute the tea for Grappa. You very well may need it.
Let’s talk housing; an issue that is without doubt the real number one zinger of a subject in Broxtowe right now. Beestonians possibly don’t see it as so – we are far too engrossed in the tram shenanigans- but zoom out a bit and the battles being fought in Stapleford and Toton regarding the siting of new housing are getting rather bloody.
A quick precis: Broxtowe Borough Council are charged by Central Government to draw up a plan to address the problem of a lack of affordable housing factoring in variables such as demographic projections, urban density and so on. This has created great controversy, due to various gree-belt sites being identified, and as such given our dear MP a strong stump to campaign from: she has done little else to show she is ‘Broxtowe’s Voice In Westminster’ as she promised before the election, so a popularist campaign on an emotive subject is a god-send for her, and her campaign manager (Neil Davidson, her partner, who we shall come back to).
So what’s not to like about this campaign? Who truly wants to build on green-field sites? We recognise the need for more housing, and I personally think the solution to that conundrum is a huge rethink on how property is owned in this country: not something that any party will dare get into unless the house-price obsessed populace feel the gold-mine they live in is under threat in any way.
Without such a radical overhaul, one has to be pragmatic and thorough. The process of deciding sites needs to be kept firmly within local democracy, however unpopular their decisions may turn out to be. The developments in Toton and on Stapleford’s Field Farm will never have outright cheerleaders (though it is worth remembering that where you are sitting right now was at some point in history greenbelt), but to fail to come up with a coherant plan that satisfies the Government appointed Planning Inspector will result in a virtual carte blanche to developers. The thinking runs thus: if you can’t sort it out, then tough, we’ll take that power away.
This is no idle threat. Planning Minister Nick Boles MP recently issued a statement, endorsed by the PM, that priority should be given in all Government departments to address the housing crisis, with an attack on the NIMBYism of those who oppose siting new estates on greenfield.
In regards to the above, I asked Soubry, via Twitter, if she would be willing to stand up in the Commons and rebuke this. No answer, unsurprisingly has been recieved. Where thus, do her loyalties lie? Does she stand up for Broxtowe campaign and clash with Cameron and the Cabinet, or does she pretend Boles didn’t say anything and let her Government do one thing while telling her constituents she’s doing all she can?
Anna’s response to solving the crisis has been consistent, that I will give her. We should look to Rushcliffe, of course, and the way they are treating the new-homes issue. A good point, maybe we should. I hadn’t really though of casting my eye that side of the Trent, but then again, I’m unlikely to ever live there, unlike Anna.
So what of Rushcliffe’s plan that Anna is so in awe of? Are we idiots not to demand our Borough Councillors look over to Rushcliffe? Until today, you might have thought it might be a good idea.
That was until the Government Planning Inspector responsible for overseeing Rushcliffe’s plans, Jill Kingaby, damned their proposals, regarding them as severely flawed and unworkable . Still a fan, Anna?
If Rushcliffe don’t sort out their plan, then they lose control of where planning goes, and this is passed over to developers to do what they will. Is this what Soubry wants? Surely not. Surely this could never happen to any Council?
Step forward, Castle Point Council, in Essex, whose Core Strategy was rejected fter being pronounced ‘unsound’. Residents there are now fighting what seems like an unwinnable battle against developers there who seem to have been giving free-rein to build. The developers? Persimmon.
Soubry’s partner and Campaign Manager is the aforementioned Neil Davidson, who is a non-executive director, and shareholder at Persimmon. Just a coincidence, I’m sure: non-executive directors have, as the name suggests, have no (offical) executive power. Anna and Neil are notoriously tetchy on this point, to the point of issuing pre-legal notices to Broxtowe Labour Party when they noticed the connection. Draw your own conclusions.
To summarise, what looks like Anna’s personal Core Strategy for reelection in Broxtowe come 2015 (or sooner) is on shakier ground than a house built by Persimmon. How can she:
- Claim Broxtowe should follow Rushcliffe in addressing planning strategy?
- Reconcile her postion with that of Cameron and Boles?
Feel free to email / write / shout at a brick wall these concerns to our MP.