Milton Keynes MPs accused of helping to 'gag' communities over planning decisions

Labour group slams city MPs for refusing to block the Developers' Charter

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 2:16 pm

Labour councillors have slammed the city's two Conservative MPs for refusing to back a vote in the House of Commons to block the controversial Developers’ Charter.

The charter is a government plan to hand control over planning decisions to developers, and Labour say it will gag residents and communities from speaking out against inappropriate developments in their area.

In an Opposition Day Debate on Monday in the House of Commons, Labour called a vote to protect local people’s right to object to individual planning applications.

Milton Keynes MPs Iain Stewart and Ben Everitt

Their motion argued that planning works best when developers and the local community work together to shape local areas and deliver necessary new homes.

Labour say the government’s proposed reforms of the planning system will remove powers from elected local representatives and hand them to Whitehall-appointed boards of developers while doing nothing to solve the growing affordable housing crisis.

Boards will oversee a new zonal system that allows developers to build at will in areas designated for growth, and communities will be consulted only in the development of five-yearly local plans and will be gagged from speaking out over individual planning applications, they state.

Conservative Ministers say the reforms are needed to speed up housebuilding, even though over one million planning permissions have not been built out in the last decade.

Labour's MK Council leader Pete Marland

But some Conservative MPs have signalled their opposition to the reforms, expressing fears about the party’s cosy relationship with developers, but failed to act when given the chance yesterday.

Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of Milton Keynes Council said the Conservative Party received £11 million in donations from developers in Boris Johnson’s first year as Prime Minister and £891,000 from developers in the first three months of 2021 alone.

“The people of Milton Keynes should have a say over what happens in our community - that's a basic principle of our democracy," he told the Citizen.

"We’ve got to build more homes, but that has to be done in the right way. The Conservatives’ Developers' Charter is a plan to stop local people from objecting to bad developments in our area and give some of their biggest donors even more power to push through plans over our heads. That means we all lose the right to prevent awful monstrosities popping up all over our towns and villages - from green space, to playground to countryside, nothing would be off the table," Pete added.

“It’s astonishing that MK’s Conservative MP’s are pressing ahead with this plan. In Parliament yesterday, Ben Everitt and Iain Stewart had the chance to show that they are listening to the huge opposition to these plan - instead they showed they are determined to carry on regardless.

“It is the wrong plan, it’s an insult to the people of Milton Keynes who care about this community and we won’t stand for it. It’s time the Conservatives stopped listening to their donor friends and started listening to the people of MK.”

Shadow Communities secretary Steve Reed MP said: “Voters have made clear they don't like the Conservative Government’s Developers’ Charter, but despite many Conservative MPs saying they support residents' right to have a say over developments on their own doorsteps, they refused to vote for it.

“The Developers’ Charter will gag the public and set wealthy developers loose to concrete over local neighbourhoods and green spaces at will. The Conservatives are paying back developers for bankrolling their party by selling out communities.

“By failing to back Labour’s motion Conservative MPs have shown that their support for residents is hollow and, yet again, they are taking their own voters for granted."