Redbridge Council leader and GLA candidate join forces against government’s planning reforms

Council leader Jas Athwal and Barkingside Cllr Judith Garfield have joined forces against the govern

Council leader Jas Athwal and Barkingside Cllr Judith Garfield have joined forces against the government's planning reforms but the conservatives have accused them of hypocrisy. Picture: Ken Mears/Redbridge Labour - Credit: Archant

The Redbridge Council leader and the Labour candidate for the London Assembly have said the government’s planning white paper gives developers a “blank cheque” but the Conservatives have accused them of “hypocrisy”.

Following the release of the government’s Planning for the Future report in August, Cllr Jas Athwal and Cllr Judith Garfield (Barkingside), who is running for the London Assembly in Havering and Redbridge, have slammed the proposed planning reforms, calling them undemocratic and saying they would “completely cut local people out of the planning process”.

The aims of the reforms are to streamline and modernise the planning process but during the consultation Redbridge Council condemned them, saying what has been proposed would erode local authority and community control while making it easier for developers to get schemes approved.

One of their main criticisms is that the reforms would scrap Section 106 agreements, which allow local authorities to negotiate with developers to include more affordable housing or green space.

Cllr Athwal said: “If the new reforms come into force, in Redbridge alone the number of houses we are mandated to build by national government will increase by 404 per cent - equivalent to 21 Pioneer Points being built in our borough every year for the next decade.”

Cllr Garfield added that reforms “should address the impact of a decade of Tory austerity and offer a blueprint to rebuild our communities after Covid”.

She added: “Instead, it’s a developers’ charter, handing over complete control of our land and our neighbourhoods. We deserve better.”

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The consultation for Planning for the Future closed at the end of October and a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have said the claims put forward are wrong.

“We’re reforming the country’s outdated planning system to deliver the high-quality, sustainable homes communities need, placing environmental protection, community engagement and sustainability at the heart of our reforms.

“Our proposals will put local democracy at the heart of the planning process, allowing communities to exert real influence over both the location and design of development.”

Cllr Linda Huggett, leader of Redbridge Conservatives said: “Redbridge Conservatives have already discussed the proposed planning reforms with London Conservative council leaders, MPs and GLA reps.

“A collective letter was sent to Robert Jenrick about the draft planning white paper which is expected to substantially change once the consultation has ended.

“So, how can Cllr Athwal accuse the government of cutting people out of the planning process when he has done this to Redbridge residents?

“They have fought tooth and nail against his monstrous 44-storey building plans and shipping container housing but they are being ignored. It’s utter hypocrisy.

“Redbridge has the worst London borough record for delivering on housing targets even though Redbridge Council own 23pc of our land.”

Commenting on Cllr Huggett’s criticisms Cllr Athwal said it was a “shame” the the Conservative group refused to condemn the proposed planning reforms.

He said: “Over the last decade successive Conservative governments have eroded local authority power and have left councils like Redbridge with our hands tied when it comes to planning. The latest reforms are just another in a long line of attempts to remove local people and local authorities from the planning process.

“It appears that the Redbridge Conservative Group are set on doing the bidding of their puppet masters in Westminster, regardless of the views of the local people they claim to represent.”

Cllr Sheila Bain, cabinet member for planning and planning enforcement, added: “The government’s developers’ charter could lead to a generation of slum housing.

“The plans stop councils requiring affordable housing in small developments and scrap the Community Infrastructure Levy, money from developers to pay for local schools and parks.

“It is a shameless land grab.”