Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September storms

Struggling to walk along the pavement safely between one meeting and the next over the last couple of days I was well and truly aware of the worst September storm for many years.  However, I don't think we had anything compared to the amount of rain that fell in parts of the North East.  Residents in Yarm and Eaglescliffe have sent me photos of the river, Yarm High Street, flooded fields where developers want to put hundreds of houses, streams where a day before it was a road.  It certainly isn't making the case for the developers any easier!
Meanwhile I could take every opportunity to make the point to ministers, advisers, members of the house of Lords, members of industry bodies and so on that we need proper ways of ensuring that if a builder has planning permission for a site and wants to renegotiate the Section 106 responsibilities they should be made to do it openly and transparently.  If it goes to appeal, the inspector can require the production of the costs for the site etc, so why can't the planning department do that at the beginning?  Why does the local council have to work with one hand behind its back?  Today, Lib Dem policy was made to include that transparency.  Now all that has to happen is to get it agreed in government!!  That won't be easy, but it'll be a great success if it can be achieved.
Add it to the idea of an additional tax on the land if the developer doesn't make a meaningful start on the development for which they've got planning permission and we'd have something really helpful.
And right up there in the policy, alongside these relatively small sections, were some big sections on making sure that tenants will have more protection against bad landlords, ensuring that local authorities are the arbiters of what's good in the area, and improving the ability of local authorities to act on the blight of empty homes.  A good motion, putting in place a good policy after an informed and passionate debate - that's conference at its best.

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