Columnist: Conservative councillor Richard Davies says the country’s planning system is ‘broken’

Richard Davies - Conservative
Richard Davies - Conservative

Former American US Presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman Jr remarked: “Economic recovery must be earned, and it will be earned by entrepreneurs and it will be earned by small businesses.”

And no place has this been more obvious in recent years than in Grantham.

The much debated question is what can Government do to promote prosperity.

At yesterday evening’s inaugural Grantham Retailers Association meeting, along with the sense of frustration over traffic and parking was a palpable sense of powerlessness with the planning system. Many business owners felt that the decision-makers on St Peter’s Hill are quick to knock their applications back but the moment that a supermarket juggernaut appears over the horizon then the red carpet is rolled out along with a different set of rules.

The reality is that our planning system is broken, it favours those with the deep pockets to fund barristers and lawyers and far too often tramples over the needs and desires of local people.

Rightly, people struggle with the concept of localism when in planning terms it seems, more often than not, to really mean ‘like it or lump it’.

The Government needs to refocus its direction and ambition, by increasingly centralised diktats all that happens is that people locally are disenfranchised and sidestepped. A proper open and free-market based system of planning that puts local residents at the heart of the decision-making process would undoubtedly be quicker and more efficient - however political masters in Westminster would have to cast asunder the reigns and trappings of power and control.

By relaxing government control on planning we could see locally supported, sustainable development such as housing and employment space.

In addition by reducing the burden of brownfield site requirement we could see our towns develop using commercial land as housing. Longer term we need planning to be controlled by those who live near it - that way the developers, of whatever size and shape, will be truly accountable to people they impact.