Friday, 28 April 2017

LOCALISM BILL TO BE A DAMP SQUIB (or worse!)

The Tories and their ‘collaborators’ i.e. the sick and dying party known as the Lib Dems, were until recently shouting from the tree tops about their proposed Localism Bill which, according to them, would give power back to communities and local councils. As believers in Decentralisation i.e. devolving power downwards away from Central Government, we tentatively welcomed this development.

Before the last General election the Conservative Party leader promised to a gullible voting public that they would “cherish the beauty of our landscape and particular cultures and traditions that rural life sustains”. He also said that the Tory party wanted a government which is transparent, accountable and decentralised .

However, it now transpires that the much lauded Localism Bill will not be so ‘local’ after all. In a highly controversial change of tack, Councils will now be told there should be a “presumption for development” on Green belt land. They are also suggesting that in order to simplify planning regulations they will reduce 1,000 pages of planning policy down to 52. Now we all want to see bureaucracy cut and jargon banished but we don’t want to see protections lost too i.e. throwing the baby out with the bathwater! Apparently the Government see these moves as a way to kick-start the economic system back to life, presumably by concreting over whole swaths of countryside? This will in effect give a ‘green light’ to developers to build on the green belt. The National Trust is so concerned with the reduction in planning policies that it is urging its members to sign a petition against the plans. We support their call.

The PM can certainty speak with a straight face and a forked tough when addressing the public and one wonders if he crosses his fingers behind his back when he does? There is a saying that there is lies, dammed lies and statistics. Perhaps we should change it to lies, dammed lies and politicians!

In the meantime the Localism Bill will be seen as a damp squid, even a lame duck that is dead in the water. For without local councils having power over planning matters the bill will be looked at by many as next to useless, for the spirit has been torn to shreds and tatters. We are beginning to realise that Mr Clegg’s word is worthless, is Cameron’s too?

Cllr Brent Cheetham (Cuffley)

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