MP’s fears over new planning reform

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CONSERVATIVE MP David Ruffley has criticised the Government’s new draft planning reform, saying it could create an ‘urban sprawl’ which would ruin the character of Bury St Edmunds.

The Government claims the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which would create a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ in planning applications, will boost housebuilding and business enterprise.

But Mr Ruffley, who represents Bury St Edmunds, said the new planning policy would open the floodgates to ‘unscrupulous’ developers.

He said: “I have always had one big fear about planning and it is that developers may be given a favourable hand in building development proposals so we have Bury St Edmunds joined up with all the surrounding villages.

“In other words there will be an urban sprawl which no-one that I know wants to see happen and that would undermine the unique character of the great county town that Bury St Edmunds is.

“It will open the door to unscrupulous developers who don’t care a fig about the character of Bury St Edmunds.

“There is no proper definition of the term sustainable development, it needs to be more specific.”

Mr Ruffley added that the effect of the NPPF was exacerbated by policy on new homes.

He said: “The New Homes Bonus will give six years in Council Tax for every house that is built.

“If a developer goes to St Edmundsbury Borough Council because it wants to build 5,000 houses and the council gives permission they will not only get the Council Tax from these houses but a cash sum as well. I do not think these proposals have been thought through well enough.”

Mr Ruffley’s view is backed by Simon Cairns, director of the Suffolk Preservation Society, who fears local councils in the county will have little power to say no to developments.

He said: “We need urgent assurances from our district councils and Ipswich Borough Council that the existing plans for their areas are bullet proof against developers who want to build what they want, where they want, not where the people of Suffolk need it.

“We are worried that developers who are planning schemes across the county will take advantage of councillors; uncertainty about the new system and bulldoze unneeded schemes through.”

The policy is out to consultation until October 17.