Norfolk MP's rejection of nimbyism branded 'hypocritical' and 'insulting'
PUBLISHED: 14:35 08 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:17 08 February 2019
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A Norfolk MP's call for home-owners to have less power to object against housing developments has been branded "hypocritical" and "insulting".
Liz Truss, Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, called for a relaxation planning rules and labelled anti-planning campaigners and existing home-owners as “the worst vested interest we’ve got”.
However, constituents and campaigners hit back, branding her a hypocrite and warning such a move could hurt the Tories ahead of council elections in May.
Speaking to the Resolution Foundation think tank in London, Ms Truss called on her party to take inspiration from brands Netflix and Aldi and provide “what people want, when they want it at a price that they want”.
She also blamed “rigid planning rules” for high house prices.
Ms Truss added: “We do have to be prepared to take on those who don’t want a house built in the field next to them.
“The worst vested interest we’ve got is existing home-owners who block development. I think that is the biggest challenge we face - how are we going to reform the system when there’s a fundamental anti-development bias in our country?”
However constituents in East Harling slammed the move and said it was hypocritical after it emerged she supported their objections to a development of nearly 200 homes by sending a letter to Breckland District Council, which has been opposed by more than 350 home-owners.
Philip Edge, chairman of Harling parish council, blasted the MP and said it was insulting to suggest existing home-owners should be ignored in favour of aggressive developers.
He said: “Which side of the fence is she sitting on?
“She is wrong to say the people who already live in East Harling and the people who have lived in East Harling for 65 years have no right to object.
“That is totally out of order. Her current thinking is whatever they want to do, let them do it.
“That is totally insulting and hypocritical not to support the people who put her in power.
“What has happened to this local democracy the Conservative party were talking about where local councils had more say?
“Democracy has gone out of the window.”
Mr Edge also warned the move would see Ms Truss and her party risk losing votes in the Conservative strong-hold.
He added: “I think they need to be very wary. The elections are coming up in May and it will be up to parishioners across the whole of south west Norfolk and any other district to show and vent their feelings against any political party.”
Di Dann, who was the campaign coordinator of Campaign Against the New Town (CANT), which successfully lobbied against plans for a 10,000 home garden town north of Dereham, said involvement of local people was integral to a functional planning system.
She added: “I think [local views] are integral but these people who object have to object with planning reasons and we had good planning reasons for objections.
“Nimbyism has been about for ages but it is not a planning reason to object and people need strong material considerations to object.”
Proposals from land promoters Lanpro for the garden town were unanimously voted against by Breckland District Council, partly due to objections from residents.
Mrs Dann echoed Mr Edge’s comments and said the Ms Truss’ move could hurt the Tories.
She added: “People value the community they live in, people value England for what it is and it is the way it is because planning has been to some extent controlled.”
Within her speech Ms Truss also attacked what she dubbed the “nanny state” and “quangocracy”, and said people “resent being told how big their pizza should be or how much alcohol they should drink per week”.
Bill Borrett, who chairs the Health and Wellbeing Board on Norfolk County Council said he agreed that people should not be told how to live, but stopped short of backing his Conservative colleague fully.
He said: “What we as a council do is signal good behaviour and help educate and inform so when people do make choices they have all the information of what the unintended consequences may be.”
Ms Truss stood behind her comments despite the criticism, and reiterated that the planning system is too inflexible and said the UK should look at countries like Germany who have simpler planning systems.
She said: “The particular issue in East Harling is the infrastructure and where there is new housing there needs to be the proper infrastructure and that was the point I was making there.
“What people don’t like is a sudden imposition. If we had a system that was more flexible, for example if a village could build a few houses extra a year, then that would be better.”
Norfolk’s growing towns
Despite huge estates planned across the region, the number of new houses delivered is lagging behind the target of 117,000 in Norfolk and Suffolk due to be built by 2026.
Thetford, within Liz Truss’ constituency, already has a new estate of 5,000 new homes underway as part of the Sustainable Urban Extension.
In Hethersett, developers Taylor Wimpey are midway through their plans to build nearly 1,200 new homes, while other towns and villages surrounding Norwich could see thousands of new residents.
As part of the Greater Norwich Development Plan, Wymondham could see 6,500 new homes, along with potential garden villages, of around 1,000 to 1,500 houses, at Honingham Thorpe and near Hethel.
Discussions are also ongoing on a development of more than 1,500 homes in Long Stratton which could see a bypass around the village being built as part of the proposal.