THE parish council at Welford-on-Avon is gearing up its campaign to prevent permanent damage being inflicted on rural communities by opportunist developers.
Its e-petition challenging the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) had attracted over 1,000 names in its first four days, and is now up to nearly 2,000 signatures.
In October last year the council met Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi and handed over evidence of the damage it said was being done as a result of “unintended loopholes” in the NPPF.
Council chairman Simon Carter told the Herald: “The NPPF was intended to give local people a say in housing development and to reduce ‘top down’ decisions in accordance with the aims of the Localism Act.
“Instead the very opposite is taking place. District councils were given only 12 months in which to produce revised local plans before the new rules were introduced and almost half of the councils throughout the country, including Stratford District Council, have not yet achieved this goal.
“In these circumstances, with the NPPF requiring development to take place without delay if it is sustainable, the door is wide open for speculative developers to make unwanted and inappropriate planning applications against the wishes of the local people.
“We are trying to get the NPPF amended—not to stop house building completely but to just provide some protection whilst new plans are drawn up.”
The council said that since last autumn it had been “deluged” with proposals seeking to increase the existing village housing stock of some 570 homes by over 200 more —an increase of 35 per cent. This figure compared with the target of 51 to 75 new homes by 2031 allocated to the village as part of the district council’s emerging core strategy.
Mr Zahawi has supported the concerns of local residents and called for changes to the NPPF which would still allow much-needed house building to continue but without the unintended consequences that were taking place up and down the country.
“Unfortunately his request has not been taken up by the government and Welford has decided to raise its game with a nationwide e-petition on the Government website,” said Cllr Carter.
Welford’s parish clerk Vanessa Lowe, who instigated the petition, said: “We are encouraged by the response to date but our target is 100,000 names if we are to get our proposals discussed in the House.
“We are now actively contacting as many organisations as possible throughout the country who share our concerns. We have received messages of support from as far apart as Lancashire and Devon."
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