New planning minister urges neighbourhoods to select areas for homes

Brandon Lewis. Photo: Bill Smith Brandon Lewis. Photo: Bill Smith

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
12:29 PM

Norfolk and Suffolk neighbourhoods which fear “inappropriate” development in their villages and towns should get together to earmark a place they do want them, the new housing minister has said.

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Brandon Lewis, who is also MP for Great Yarmouth, said the process of creating a “neighbourhood development plan” could also bring villagers closer together.

Norfolk has three of the 18 neighbourhood plans which are now in force across the country – in Cringleford, Strumpshaw and Sprowston – with a further 15 in Norfolk, 13 in Suffolk and eight in Cambridgeshire villages and towns currently in the pipeline.

But while the new plans introduced through the Localism Act in April 2012, allow communities to set out where new homes and offices should be built, and what they should look like, they have come under fire for not giving communities any real power as they must still take into account the local council assessment of housing and other development needs in the wider area.

But Mr Lewis said he believed that people in rural communities were not necessarily against planning and housing, and the plans would give them the power to ask for “fitting and appropriate” homes and offices.

“I have talked to some people in villages and parishes in my constituency,” he said. “They are not against having any houses built, they just don’t need 500.

“Four or five being built for the children, grandchildren or people to downsize to so the community has got room to grow itself is quite sensible. We don’t just want to see housing estates built. We want to see places that people want to live.”

The average approval rating for a neighbourhood plan has been around 89% and Mr Lewis said that an average turnout in the “high thirty per cents” – higher than most local authority elections – meant people were being engaged.

“Because it is design by the community, for the community, they are backing it,” he said.

Mr Lewis also claimed that the process of writing a neighbourhood plan was bringing neighbourhoods together. “It is getting people in villages coming out and talking to each other and discussing things about the future of their area. On lots of levels it is a really positive thing.”

He also claimed that with more projects of five, 10 or 15 houses there were opportunities for the smaller builders. “Encouraging those small builders is a good thing. They tend to employ from the local community, their supply chain is in the local community, so I would like to see a lot more small builders out there building those five, 10, 15 house estates – and they do it to a good quality generally.”

• Is your community pulling together a neighbourhood plan? Email annabelle.dickson@archant.co.uk

11 comments

  • By introducing the National Planning Policy Framework or NPPF the government has weakened planning regulations so much that developers can get their way and build in places the public do not want and local authorities cannot stop them.

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    Capri

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • What a load of Bull, there must be an election forthcoming.

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    John L Norton

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • I do always agree with Daisy Roots but her comments regarding jobs is spot on, in West Norfolk the powers that be despite local opposition are intent on building 1600 homes in West Winch, 900 in South Wootton and a further 600 on what is known as the Lynn Sport site. No regard has been paid to the impact of this number of homes in relation to the provision of jobs, the Borough Council has not fully engaged itself in bringing any form of industry to Kings Lynn to replace the hundreds of full time jobs lost over the past few years in the local food and supporting industries. The Hardwick estate area once the industrial centre of Lynn is now subject to becoming an out of town retail centre. They, the council has the mistaken belief that West Norfolk can survive on tourism and pavement cafe' culture, "tarting" up the market squares is only cosmetic and disguises the fact that the council is not being proactive in securing a strong industrial base, instead we are becoming a retirement area which relies upon a low paid part time service industry.

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    Norfolcia

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • Mr Lewis's comments can only be explained in terms of ignorance or complete cynicism. Numerous settlements in Norfolk - many with poor communications and minimal potential for jobs growth - are now being bulldozed by the planning authorities of Conservative-controlled district councils into accepting large unwanted greenfield 'annexes'. Those who object are always told that the allocation numbers cannot be changed. Again, even if communities create neighbourhood plans they have to conform with 'higher level strategies' (i.e. district-wide targets that have aready been set) if they are to be adopted.

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    Trevor Ashwin

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • This is a cynical exercise. Mr Lewis is one of those responsible for the NPPF and the total destruction of localism in many areas of England. It is appalling to think that not only is he trying to sell yet another pup to an unsuspecting public, but he has no compunction in pretending that he has the interests of the countryside and small communities at heart. England is littered with the mistakes and eyesores that this policy has created whilst developers laugh all the way to the bank.

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    Notahappytory

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • I do not know how this man has the brass neck to make such claims. The NPPF has ruined whole neighbourhoods and his claim that local views will be taken into account is a sham. He should be ashamed of himself. Roll on the election.

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    Notahappytory

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • V is right about GYBC planning dept. Some amazingly stupid schemes going through right now-like a building ( Premier Inn?? -v good but wrong place) going up bang next to the Breydon -Acle Straight roundabout which desperately needs redesigning to make it work and eradicate the miles of queues on the A47. Beats me why the Highways agency did not stop it. And an iffy looking proposal for a development of around 200 houses on greenfield in the consultation process right now. Too many villages have been overwhelmed by developments with absolutely no additional facilities provided by the council and just b*g standard play areas from the developers.

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    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • well he is right ( even if we cannot admire him as a politician) and it is what many people have been saying for a long time-but the planners work from their bumper colouring book for planners ( written by developers) which works on the make it easy for big developers principle, whereby developers tack a massive greenfield development onto a pretty or nice existing village, provide a bit of waste water services maybe a road only necessary because of the development and make a lot of extravagant promises about facilities provision which go unfulfilled. Where for instance, are all the inhabitants of the developments at Watton going to work? It is not a good road into Norwich nor Dereham-will the estates become a dumping ground for the unemployed in rented homes or am I missing something? I can think of several villages which might have kept their school and maybe their shop if a few houses every year had been allowed. I would however be very reluctant to place such a decision in the hands of " communities" which usually translates as the gobby on the parish councils-or those with a vested interest.

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    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • I think Mr. Lewis's place of residence is Cloud Cuckoo Land. The district councils ignore the inhabitants, the counties ignore the districts, and the Government ignores the whole lot. It's not just housing either, but solar farms, power stations and monster onshore wind turbines as well.

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    T Doff

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • When it comes to planning housing developments the government and various councils tend to totally ignor the opinions of the people.

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    VictorM

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • So when is Lewis going to get the out of control Gt Yarmouth Planning Department back under control ?. At the moment they ride roughshod over the people, and agree to every planning application going.

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    "V"

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

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