Planning Minister, Nick Boles MP, visited Dartington on Thursday the 11th of April for an open meeting in the Great Hall. It was an opportunity to discuss the Localism Bill, Neighbourhood Plans, The National Planning Policy Framework, Housing and the conservation of our environment amongst other topics. It was a measure of just how important this issue is that so many people rearranged their diaries at short notice following the Parliamentary recall.
I was glad that representatives from a large number of local organisations were able to attend including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Transition Town Totnes, The Dartington Trust, Totnes and District Society and the South Hams Society as well as representatives from a number of local planning campaign groups. Many councillors and those both for against wind turbines were able to put questions to the Minister.
The meeting was a lively but balanced event. Nick was honest that the expectations of localism were difficult to meet. He explained that it did not absolve communities from taking their share of the local housing need but could allow them to set out through neighbourhood planning where it went and how it looked.
He debated the competing priorities and the difficulty of balancing the need to grow food, house our young people and protect our natural environment as well as ensure nationally important infrastructure is not neglected.
Nick Boles heard a clear message that neighbourhood planning was an overly complex process that needed to be simplified and I am glad that he agreed that a review should be undertaken to make sure that this is the case.
If localism cannot work in Brixham and the South Hams where there is such a commitment to our communities it is hard to see how it could work anywhere. It will have been very clear to him that whilst people understand the need to meet the demand for more housing, we also want to see something more tangible from localism.
Photograph by kind permission of Andy Styles, Herald Express.