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Dying villages could be aided by planning change

PUBLISHED: 00:04 01 March 2011

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman at his new constituency office in Dereham.; Photo: Bill Smith

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman at his new constituency office in Dereham.; Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2011

Many Norfolk villages could soon be helped to revive by a relaxation of planning restrictions, one of the county's MPs claimed yesterday.

Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman said he understands ministers are set to tackle "the last government's 'sustainability rules' that can prohibit schemes for the creation of jobs and the building of houses in small villages". "Most of us think that sustainability means making places viable, but for the last government it meant putting development only into places that were already regarded as viable," he said. Small villages that had lost their post office or school could be denied developments for jobs or houses that would help to restore them, he added.

Many Norfolk villages could soon be helped to revive by a relaxation of planning restrictions, one of the county’s MPs claimed yesterday.

Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman said he understands ministers are set to tackle “the last government’s ‘sustainability rules’ that can prohibit schemes for the creation of jobs and the building of houses in small villages”. “Most of us think that sustainability means making places viable, but for the last government it meant putting development only into places that were already regarded as viable,” he said. Small villages that had lost their post office or school could be denied developments for jobs or houses that would help to restore them, he added.

Mr Freeman wants local councils to be able to promote jobs, small business and affordable housing for local employees in villages “instead of ‘zoning’ all of the housing and employment in remote housing and industrial estates”, and he raised the subject in the Commons yesterday.

He spoke immediately afterwards to ministerial aides, and was told that “we are on to this” and that ministers are thinking of modifying the rules as part of their localism agenda.

A spokesman for the Communities and Local Government Department later said that the government is committed to integrating national planning policy on the economy and housing in its streamlined national planning policy framework, and that “this will give local authorities and communities the tools they need to understand the needs of small villages and to plan for the sustainable jobs and homes they need”. But the department declined to go into specifics about policy changes.

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