The Humble Petition of residents of Irchester, Northamptonshire and the surrounding areas,
that the Government’s Regional Spatial Strategy requiring 52,000 new homes to be built in North Northamptonshire is having an adverse and detrimental effect on the village of Irchester; that the proposed extension of the village policy line allowing the possibility of large scale housing as part of this spatial strategy is unacceptable; and that the Petitioners are opposed to any development outside of the existing Irchester village boundaries which would have an adverse effect on the village.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to scrap Regional Spatial Strategies and return planning decisions to local councils; and further urges him to request that the Borough Council of Wellingborough listens to the view of local people and does not extend the village policy line.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Mr. Peter Bone, Official Report, 15 March 2010; Vol. 507, c. 697 .]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is aware that various options for development across the Borough, which includes some sites in Irchester, are currently being considered by the Borough Council of Wellingborough as part of the preparation of a draft Site Allocations Development Plan Document. He is advised that this work is at an early stage of development and that there will be a formal public consultation before any decisions are taken.
The overall numbers of houses planned for North Northamptonshire were set in the Milton Keynes and South Midlands Sub Regional Strategy in March 2005 following two periods of public consultation and an examination in public before an independent panel. Details on this can be seen at http://www.gos.gov.uk/gose/ourRegion/growthAreas/mksmGrowth/srs/
This was incorporated into statutory policy through the Regional Spatial Strategy for the East Midlands, issued in March 2005 and revised in March 2009. This document was also subject to formal stages of public consultation and examination in public. Further development of strategic policy for the area was covered in the North Northamptonshire Core Spatial Strategy which was adopted by the North Northamptonshire Joint Planning Committee in June 2008 following further public consultation and an examination in public. In none of these documents is Irchester named as a settlement in which major growth is proposed.
The context to the Milton Keynes and South Midlands Sub Regional Strategy was the Government’s concern about increasing house prices and the difficulty that young families were experiencing in accessing adequate housing in places that they wished to live and at prices that they could afford. This has been caused because the numbers of new houses built across the country have for many years been considerably lower than housing needs. For example in the East Midlands while additions to the housing stock in 2008-09 totalled only 14,200, the numbers of new households forming in the region in recent years have risen to around 23,000 per year and projections indicate that this rate is likely to increase. This mismatch is a problem that is continuing to get worse throughout the whole country and the Government are firmly committed to planning to provide for more housing and more affordable housing.
The petition suggests that the Secretary of State should scrap Regional Strategies and return planning decisions to local councils. The Secretary of State does not accept that scrapping Regional Strategies will help to address the housing shortfall; furthermore the decision as to where new housing should be planned for already lies with local planning authorities. As for directing the Borough Council to listen to the views of local people and not to extend the village policy line, it is the Government’s general approach not to interfere with local authorities’ jurisdiction unless it is necessary to do so. Parliament has entrusted them with responsibility for day-to-day planning control in their areas and the Government consider that local planning authorities are normally best placed to make decisions relating to their areas and that it is right that in general, they should be free to carry out their duties responsibly, with the minimum of interference.