Inappropriate development must not be steamrollered through under lockdown, says Suffolk MP
PUBLISHED: 12:34 18 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:22 18 May 2020
Proper scrutiny of planning applications must still be carried out during the coronavirus lockdown, a Suffolk MP has warned amid fears controversial proposals could be getting the green light.
Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter has written to Robert Jenrick, the housing and local government secretary outlining his concerns, and called on Suffolk’s councils to make sure processes were in place for adequate planning application decisions.
MORE: Follow the Suffolk Coronavirus Facebook page for updates
Dr Poulter had raised concerns that some applications could be getting approval if they were not sustainable, and lead to further problems down the line.
He said: “As someone who lives locally in Suffolk, I share the concerns of residents and that’s why I have written to the Secretary of State for Housing and Local Government to raise my concerns about the need to maintain proper scrutiny of local planning decisions.
“As we are likely to be living with Covid-19 for many months and perhaps years, it is important that we find a way that allows our planning system to continue to function.
“But in doing so, it is essential that important safeguards are maintained to ensure that the views of local communities continue to be properly considered as part of a transparent planning process. “The introduction of recent emergency planning powers were not intended to be used to steam-roll through inappropriate development.
“We must continue to support the building of schools and hospitals, but it is also important that we do not allow the big house-building companies to push through large housing projects without due process and scrutiny.”
It is not uncommon for planning officers to determine applications – particularly smaller and non-controversial developments, but planning committees made up of councillors normally determine proposals which could be divisive or feature large numbers of homes.
Planning committees had been suspended when the coronavirus lockdown began, but following emergency powers passed the Government to allow council committees to meet virtually, planning gatherings can now be held with councillors dialling in to a video call.
MORE: Video meetings planned for Suffolk councils
Those meetings are broadcast on council video streams, and most of Suffolk’s authorities except Ipswich Borough Council have begun utilising the technology.
Ipswich is expected to hold its first virtual planning meeting next month.
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