Over Wyre Focus - Jul 2014

Many of you will be concerned by the greatly increased number of planning applications which have appeared in Wyre. This is the result of Wyre Council putting an appeal out for sites earlier in the year. Firstly, it does not mean that all these applications will be successful. Secondly, nearly four years ago the Government gave the power to local councils to decide how and where they could allow new homes to be built. There seems to be a lot of confusion about the role and intention of central government with regards to new development. Perhaps it would help if I set out the background?

Under the last Government, the power to decide where new housing was to be built was handed over to the Region and a Regional Spatial Strategy imposed a whole range of obligations on local councils. This Government felt that was unfair and broke the link between local democracy and planning. Under the Localism Act (passed in 2011) local authorities were required to take part in two major processes. The first, was to use independent analysis and research to define what the demand for new homes would be over the next 20 years. That analysis would eventually result in the calculation of the number of dwellings required across a borough. This is called “housing need” and every government, since the War, has recognised that it is important to fulfil it.

Between 2003 and 2011 on average 250 dwellings have been built per year in Wyre, meeting the demand. Unlike other local authority areas, we don’t have an historic shortage of supply and so we do not need to increase supply dramatically in order to play catch-up. It is clear, however, that we do need new homes in Wyre, to enable our young people to be able to continue living here, keeping our communities vibrant. That said, it is essential that the Council does everything it can to ensure that it maintains control of the process by issuing a Local Plan.

Once housing need has been agreed, a council is free (hopefully through consultation) to decide what approach it wants to take to meet the housing need. This for example could be whether to spread the housing widely in smaller numbers through villages or by expansion of the more urban centres or even in, some cases, the development of a new town. The Local Plan and Core Strategy, set out more local requirements such as design, scale and location. Once the plan has been properly formulated and submitted to the national Planning Inspector and Secretary of State for final sign-off, everyone in a local community can see where and how new development will take place over the next 20 years.

It is my experience as an MP that the fear of planning next door is greater than the reality. So I think it is essential that we are all consulted on detailed proposals, before developments are given permission to proceed. Councils must put in place a Local Plan because - as we have seen in cases which have come before the High Court - Councils which have not got on with forming a Plan lose control of where building can happen because developers force the pace through appeals. A Local Plan is a “shield”, if you like, to stop speculative applications by large developers. What we are seeing across the country is that those councils with no Plan yet in place are more vulnerable than those which do. For an idea of consultations undertaken by other planning authorities I recommend that you look at these two links from Lancaster and Preston:

http://www.lancaster.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/planning-consultat… and http://www.preston.gov.uk/yourservices/planning/planning-policy/preston…

I have also raised the matter with, and am due to meet, the Planning Minister in the autumn to try and get Wyre some breathing space to enable them to get their plan up and running.

On the subject of planning, a large number of Over Wyre residents have contacted me about the application which has been submitted by Punch Taverns for the development of retail premises on land at The Shovels Inn, Green Meadow Lane in Hambleton. I share many of the concerns expressed about the proposals (the highways issues, design of the building, the impact on the character of the development on the village and the existing businesses). I have written to Wyre Council to formally object to the application and will be sure to follow the progress of the application closely.

We are truly fortunate that in Great Eccleston and Garstang we have exceptional local agricultural shows. I took my family to the Great Eccleston Show recently and my children fell in love with tractor pulling!

In the last month I have successfully helped over 25 constituents experiencing delays with their passport applications, allowing them to go ahead with their travel plans. I do believe that the Passport Office is making progress with the backlog of applications which has occurred after a 12 year peak in the number of applications it has received. HM Passport Office does still recommend that people do not book travel until they have a valid passport. However, if you encounter any problems please do get in touch with me: I’d be happy to assist you. To take up cases I require the following information: the full name of the applicant; their full home address; date of birth; any application reference number; the date when the application was made; the date of travel; and a telephone contact number. It would be helpful if this information could be emailed to me (email address below). Alternatively, please call my House of Commons Office.

As August approaches, I want to wish you all a happy summer and I hope you enjoy the wonderful weather. I look forward to meeting you while I’m out and about.

I hold regular surgeries, if you would like to book an appointment please call my Office at the House of Commons on 0207 219 5804. I can also be contacted at my Constituency Office on 01995 672976, alternatively you can email me at wallaceb@parliament.uk or write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.