Following press reports at the weekend that the government was planning to force what were described as NIMBY councils to build more houses there is a fascinating piece by Hastings Borough Council (HBC) leader Peter Chowney this week about neighbouring Wealden Council and its reluctance to build – and its attempts to stop other nearby councils building as well.
In his monthly report to HBC Mr Chowney writes: “For internal political reasons in Wealden… Wealden Council has issued a blanket objection to all development that involves any additional car movements, however small, across all councils in the region.
In a bid to protect Ashdown Forest and Pevensey Levels Wealden Council will object to planning applications that increase car movements.
“This is because they have evidence, which is genuine, that pollution from cars is affecting Ashdown Forest and Pevensey Levels both Special Areas of Conservation.
“However, they have extrapolated this to claim that any development anywhere in a dozen or so other councils in the region will damage Ashdown Forest. So that means they are objecting to all planning applications that involve even one additional car, so one house for example, even though Hastings is over 30km from the Ashdown Forest at its nearest boundary.
“This move in effect freezes all housing development in much of South East England. But Wealden has said that they will apply for judicial review of any development that is approved by any of the councils. Along with other affected councils, we’re going ahead with smaller developments that Wealden haven’t put in a specific objection to, but we’re putting bigger applications on hold, pending further legal and environmental advice.
“This one will run for a while yet though and could hit the national headlines when government and the press twig what the implications are. But for now, Wealden Council’s actions are blocking development in Hastings, and costing local tax payers money in having to deal with it and get – often expensive – external advice.”
Wealden’s decision seems to fly in the face of the government’s desire to see more houses built to resolve the acknowledged housing shortage that exists in the country at large. At the weekend, The Sunday Times reported the government had plans to force councils to ‘build the homes Britain needs’. It reported that councils failing to reach government targets for house building could be stripped of their planning powers over local planning wit those powers being handed to an independent inspector.
You can read more of the detail here.