I have done everything I can to make the voice of local people heard in the planning process. Ever since I was elected I have spoken out against development at Junction 8 and pushed for new housing to be supported by appropriate infrastructure. I wrote to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, asking him to step in to prevent development at Woodcut farm near Junction 8, address the shortfall of infrastructure to support housing in the plan and ensure a robust strategy is worked-up to tackle ever increasing air pollution from traffic.
Sajid Javid has decided not to intervene in the Local Plan. He has, however, clearly recognised the deep concerns raised by leaving open the option of intervening in the future.
On Woodcut farm, Mr Javid wrote: “I note that the detailed matters such as landscaping, the siting, scale and design of buildings would remain to be determined and that the existing application is only for outline permission. I fully support both you and your constituents being provided with more information on these important details. I will have the opportunity to consider further requests to intervene in this planning application prior to its determination having regard to our policy on call-in.”
Mr Javid agreed with me on the importance of investment in the local transport network, saying: “it is vital that infrastructure is brought forward alongside the new homes we need to support the development.”
He also wrote: “I understand your concern that some local authorities may be restricting the scope for communities to bring forward neighbourhood plans, due to the extent to which they deem their own local plan policies to be 'strategic'. This is a matter that we intend to address through revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework, a draft of which we aim to publish for consultation early in 2018.”
I welcome his comments about a revised National Planning Policy Framework, I will make clear when I respond to the consultation that local people must have a say in development for their area through neighbourhood plans. I am disappointed that he has not intervened to prevent development at Junction 8, but I remain adamant that any future building here must be at a size and design that will not harm Leeds Castle. Work on reviewing the local plan will begin as soon as it is adopted and I will continue to push for Leeds castle to be protected and for the road network to be improved.”
You can read the full text of his letter here.