With friends like these…

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage recently called for decisions on two proposed housing developments in Fareham’s Strategic Gap to be taken away from the Planning Inspectorate, and ruled on instead by the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

Yes, that Robert Jenrick! The Minister many say should resign because of his part in giving newspaper tycoon Richard Desmond permission for a huge London property development the day before it would have become liable to a £50million Community Infrastructure Levy.

(Community Infrastructure Levy – CIL – is not some obscure, punitive tax imposed at the whim of a Council which Mr Desmond described as “Marxists”. It’s the contribution developers all over the country pay to councils to provide facilities like schools, clinics, road improvements and play areas – the infrastructure put under strain by new housing developments.)

As it happens, Fareham’s Planning Committee this week voted unanimously against the two proposed developments, totalling 190 homes in the countryside between Newgate Lane and the new relief road. (Full story here). But the developers had already appealed because of delay in considering them, so they will go to the Planning Inspectorate.

Fareham’s planning officers cited 14 issues on which the proposals conflict with the Borough’s adopted policy, and elected planning councillors voted 8-0 to back their recommendation of refusal.

It’s disappointing that this clear local consensus should have to be re-examined by an outside official. But at least we have the comfort that HM Planning Inspectors have made several recent rulings protecting Fareham’s Strategic Gap, which benefits Gosport as well as Fareham.

It’s hard to see why Gosport’s MP believes that Robert Jenrick would be a better friend to our countryside. And indeed, any Housing Minister appointed by Boris Johnson should be regarded with suspicion. Johnson’s henchman – some say puppet-master – Dominic Cummings is said to believe that MORE planning decisions should be taken away from local councils and given to Whitehall.

Fareham’s Conservative councillors blame central government for the increasing demands for more house-building. But it’s not so long since those same Tory councillors were standing outside polling stations urging us to vote for – you’ve guessed it – THIS government.

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