Democratic Deficit

Localism be damned

From the outset, visions for a “growth Arc” between Oxford and Cambridge has been a top-down and centrally driven ambition for rapid growth in the South East, spelling the end of localism.

For this reason, Buckinghamshire Council exited the Arc last year, expressing concerns about the way the scheme had been developed and the preoccupation with housing growth. Responding to a question from Councillor Robin Stuchbury on March 30 2021, Martin Tett, the council leader, said that the approach to planning in Bucks should provide both pace and a local democratic mandate.

BEAG agrees. The Recovery Proposition produced by the Council as an alternative to the government’s and developers’ plans for vast profit-making schemes suggests ‘front loading’ housing delivery to achieve existing (already high) targets for house building. (To read the full question and answer click here.)

However, we do not know how meaningful Buckingham Council’s resistance can really be. The Government’s “build, build, build” agenda requires sweeping planning reforms to “streamline” the planning process and to allocate zones for industry and business, as well as housing. Buckingham Council has been selected as one of the local planning authorities to test the plans for new planning zones.

A new grassroots campaign

Fed up with the lack of democracy in the planning process, and anxious about environmental impacts of a system skewed in favour of developers, a new grassroots campaign began in March 2021. The initial aim of the campaign was to produce a map showing the scale of the threat to the UK countryside. The response from consumer campaigns was staggering. Over 400 campaigns have been added to the map and the grassroots campaign has now become the Community Planning Alliance and has achieved excellent press coverage (example here). The objectives of the CPA are to provide support for those fighting planning battles, and to seek influence with decision and policy makers. To view the map, click here. To add your campaign, click here. Follow the CPA on Twitter and Facebook.