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'Absolute twaddle' - fellow Conservative criticises Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss over planning views

PUBLISHED: 20:45 04 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:33 05 June 2019

Elizabeth Truss MP. Picture: Ian Burt

Elizabeth Truss MP. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant

A Norfolk MP's backing for reforms to make it easier for small sites to be developed with no need for planning permission has been described as "absolute twaddle" - by a high-profile member of her own party.

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association. Pic: Archant Library.Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association. Pic: Archant Library.

Elizabeth Truss, Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, recently told a national newspaper how she wanted to see planning rules relaxed and a million homes built on the London Green Belt and around other growing cities so people under 40 would be able to own their own homes.

She also said: "We should allow villages to expand by four or five houses a year, without having to go through the planning system, so people can afford to live locally."

On Tuesday, Ms Truss, who is backing Boris Johnson in the Tory leadership battle, commented on an online article written by a member of the House Builders Association and National Federation of Builders, which made the case for planning reform to fix the housing crisis.

She said: "Spot on. We need a flexible, simpler planning system that enables small sites to be developed and doesn't tie builders in red tape."

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But Gary Porter, Conservative chairman of the Local Government Association, which represents local councils and leader of South Holland District Council, hit back at his party colleague.

In tweet back to the chief secretary to the treasury, Lord Porter said: "Absolute twaddle. The housing crisis is caused by treasury and the banks, not planning policy.
"There are over 470,000 live planning permissions on the books already. We need more people to be able to access cash, not bits of land with an increased value."

Ms Truss replied that she disagreed and said countries with zonal planning systems, such as Germany, had seen far more houses built, which made them more affordable.

She said she would be saying more about her thoughts in a speech to the Resolution Foundation thinktank on Thursday.

Lord Porter replied questioning if homes in Germany actually were more affordable and said: "If you rely on taking the land value out of the equation, you will devalue the homes that most owners currently live in, and I'm not sure that's a vote winner."

Earlier this year, Ms Truss was critical of householders who opposed new homes, saying "The worst vested interest we've got is existing home-owners who block development."

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