Tory MPs threaten to rebel over controversial planning reforms

The proposals have already faced fierce opposition, and now a poll has found more than half of Conservative backbenchers could oppose them

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Two thirds of Tory backbenchers believe the changes will result in increased pressure to build homes on green space close to where people live Credit: Richard Pohle/WPA Pool/Getty Images

More than half of Conservative backbenchers are considering opposing the Government’s upheaval of the planning system when the Planning White Paper comes before parliament, according to a new poll.

The proposals have already faced fierce opposition from local councillors, local communities, MPs, former Cabinet Ministers and even the former Prime Minister Theresa May.

The survey of 40 Tory backbenchers by Savanta ComRes found that two thirds believe the changes will result in increased pressure to build homes on green space close to where people live.

More than three quarters – 78 per cent – thought large house builders were not fair and transparent with local people. The Government’s proposals will give them more power in the planning system.

A similar proportion – 75 per cent – of backbench Conservative MPs think large house builders should build in the locations that local people want to see developed.

The study also found that almost nine in ten, 88 per cent, of backbench Tories believe local people should have a say over specific planning applications and specific development sites in their community.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity which paid for the research, said: "It’s clear the Government needs to get back in touch with its own MPs.

"In the face of a national lockdown, protecting and enhancing countryside and green space close to where people live has never been more important.

"From Cornwall to Carlisle, MPs, local councillors, communities and CPRE groups are raising the alarm and the message is clear – dismantling the planning system will not deliver thriving countryside communities, more homes people can afford to live in and greater access to green space.  

"To avoid pitting local communities and MPs against the Government, we must cement the voice of local people in these planning proposals, protect and enhance local green space and ensure that the duty for developers to build social homes is upheld.

"We’re calling on ministers to take this opportunity to review key elements of the planning proposals, learn the lessons of lockdown and deliver the homes and places that support healthy, vibrant communities."

Sir Graham Brady, a critic of the plans and chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, said that part of the problem was that ministers did not understand the application of the changes in different parts of the country.

He said: "In Greater Manchester we have huge swathes where you could build and nobody would object and they have got smaller areas like Altrincham, Cheadle and Hazel Grove where you can build as much as you like but you won't bring prices down."

A Ministry of Housing spokesman said: “These concerns are unfounded. Our much needed reforms to the outdated planning system protect green spaces and will create beautiful and well-designed communities, with green spaces and tree-lined streets as the norm – with a bigger role for local consent.

“The 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.”

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