Controversial Government plans to increase new houses built across Harborough have been scrapped

Harborough MP was at the centre of the protests and said he welcomes the change

Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 11:21 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 11:22 am
Controversial Government plans to dramatically increase the number of new houses built across Harborough have been scrapped.

Controversial Government plans to dramatically increase the number of new houses built across Harborough have been scrapped.

Housebuilding in the district would have doubled from just under 600 new properties every year to 1,238 a year under a highly-contentious new algorithm.

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien, the first MP to slam the under-fire scheme, has backed the Government’s climbdown after a massive grassroots Tory rebellion led by former Prime Minister Theresa May and ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Many more new houses will now be built in inner city areas instead after backbench Conservative MPs feared vast swathes of countryside in the Midlands and South would be concreted over.

Harborough MP Neil, who took his fight all the way up to Premier Boris Johnson, told the Harborough Mail: “I was the first MP to raise concerns about these proposed changes and have been highly critical of the proposed new targets in Parliament.

“So I am very glad to see these plans being scrapped.

“I have been making the cases that housebuilding should focus more on regenerating brownfield land in inner city areas - and I am glad that is exactly what ministers will now do.

“That is far better for the environment - and will reduce congestion and revamp run-down areas.”

Neil added: “I have discussed this matter at the very highest levels and I left ministers and No 10 in no doubt at all about the strength of feeling locally.

“There is a lot more to do to fix our broken planning system.

“I’m encouraged by the plans set out in a recent White Paper to ensure that more of the financial gains from housebuilding are channelled into local infrastructure and benefits for the community, rather than jackpot profits for developers.

“When legislation comes to parliament later this year we need to make sure it happens.”

The Government’s surprise decision to back down is also being endorsed by Cllr Phil Knowles, who leads the Liberal Democrats on Harborough council.

Cllr Knowles warned that the biggest root and branch shake-up of the country’s planning system proposed in over 70 years would have been “catastrophic” for Harborough.

“I’m very relieved and very grateful that the Government appears to have climbed down on this and listened to reason – as well as to thousands of angry people all over England.

“I do want to see what they are now planning to do instead at greater length – because the devil is often in the detail,” Cllr Knowles told the Mail.

“But this dramatic change of mind has got to be supported by every sane person.

“We called for a total rethink on this – and it seems that’s what they have done.

“I was shocked when this new algorithm for building many more houses in areas like Harborough was put forward in the first place in the summer.

“The negative impact on our district would have been immense – and catastrophic.

“Our under-pressure infrastructure in Harborough is already creaking at the seams as it is,” said Cllr Knowles.

“We’d all have feared for our entire quality of everyday life if we’d have suddenly been faced with over 1,200 new houses being built here year in year out.

“I’m convinced that the Government has been genuinely shaken and rocked by the huge groundswell of bitter opposition from outraged district councils, parish councils, MPs and the public.

“Democracy has got to be done and seen to be done – and I’m delighted that it seems to have been done in this case.”