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Andrew Mitchell MP raises Sutton Coldfield’s battle against Green Belt Development in the House of Commons

Sutton’s MP intervened in a debate in the House of Commons this week to secure a greater say for local Councillors and local communities over Green Belt development.

Speaking during the Report Stage of the Infrastructure Bill Andrew Mitchell urged that the Planning Inspectorate should attach more importance to the views of local groups and in particular where local Councillors such as those in New Hall Sutton Coldfield unanimously oppose development, that their views should be taken into account and given greater weight in the planning process. Andrew Mitchell told Ministers that such additional powers were the logical conclusion of the Conservative-led boost for localism set out in the Localism Bill.

In a response the Minister John Hayes said "we will take the necessary steps to ensure that the spirit that underpinned those amendments (the ones supported by Sutton's MP) is realised in respect of government policy. I must say that my Right Honourable Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield has been a doughty champion of the interests of the people in his constituency in this regard. He is right that development needs to enjoy community support and be proportionate."


Mr Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con): I rise to support two of the provisions tabled and ably espoused by my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert). The first is new clause 12, where he has put the case succinctly; after all, we made a manifesto commitment to abolish the Planning Inspectorate. I also want to draw the House’s attention to the fact that the inspectorate is not taking sufficient account of local feelings in the judgments it makes.

I particularly wish to draw the Minister’s attention to new clause 20, which, as my right hon. Friend has said, builds on our localism agenda. The limited right of appeal to the Secretary of State is extremely important and would be of great benefit to my constituents in Sutton Coldfield, where there is massive opposition to the proposition that we should build between 5,000 and 6,000 homes on its green belt. Yet that opposition, expressed in marches across the countryside as well as in public meetings, has been entirely ignored by the local authority.

In proposed new subsection (2B), my right hon. Friend points out the importance of

“ward councillors for the area who have lodged a formal objection to the planning application in writing to the planning authority, or where there is more than one councillor, all councillors by unanimity”.

Giving that degree of local support to what the local community want is extremely important. I believe and hope that the Minister, perhaps on Third Reading, will be able to give my constituents some comfort on that.

The opportunity of genuine community involvement should be built in at every stage of planning the process; there should not just be the one-off chance that those responsible for development can choose either to respond or to ignore.

Recently, when the inspector held an oral hearing at which I was able to give evidence on behalf of my constituents, he asked for more evidence to be adduced on the requirement for the colossal amount of building involved. We have always argued that there was not sufficient evidence to build on Sutton Coldfield’s green belt, particularly in respect of the inward immigration figures in the area. We draw some comfort from the decision by the Planning Inspectorate, but it is extremely important that the local community is able to have far more say than we do at that moment, at this important juncture in the life of the royal town of Sutton Coldfield.


Mr Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con): Before my right hon. Friend leaves the issue of planning, may I ask him about new clauses 12 and 20, tabled by my right hon. Friend Nick Herbert? Obviously, there was no possibility for a Minister to respond to the points he and I made on those clauses, but if the Minister has a moment to say a word or two on them, I am sure my constituents in the royal town of Sutton Coldfield would be grateful.

Mr John Hayes (Minister of State (Department for Transport); South Holland and The Deepings, Con): I am delighted to amplify the remarks that I made in an earlier intervention and say that we do take very seriously the remarks made by my right hon. Friend and the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend Nick Herbert. We will take the necessary steps to ensure that the spirit that underpinned those amendments is realised in respect of Government policy. I must say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield has been a doughty champion of the interests of the people in his constituency in this regard. He is right that development needs to enjoy community support, to be proportionate and, in my judgment, to inspire and to elevate. Is that too much to ask for in our age? I say that it is not.

The introduction of mayoral development orders will allow the Mayor of London to assist local authorities to regenerate London. Across the nation, these planning reforms will help kick-start a new era of construction that is fit for purpose.

Tonight, we have also debated energy. Some of the measures that we have introduced are designed to assist our current and future energy needs. We will take a lead in improving global transparency in the extractive sector by participating in the extractive industries transparency initiative. Our country has an enviable record on the regulation of extractive industries. We have listened carefully to concerns about new forms of extraction and have put in place additional measures to reassure Members across the House. The House will have seen tonight that, because we are sensitive to those concerns, because we are responsive to arguments, and because we listen and learn, we will take on board the perfectly proper considerations of those who are as determined as we are to ensure that these things are done safely and securely and in tune with local interests.

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