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Government plans to allow developers automatic permission to build houses have come under fire from Kent MPs


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Several MPs have joined growing opposition to planning reforms which were announced in the Queen's Speech last week.

The shake-up would involve councils being forced to accept housing development in zones allocated for growth.

The government plans to allow developers automatic permission to build houses, but not all MPs agree. Stock picture: iStock
The government plans to allow developers automatic permission to build houses, but not all MPs agree. Stock picture: iStock

Councils would get the chance to set out areas where they did not wish to see houses built but that has failed to convince Conservative MPs.

About 80 backbenchers are reported to be mobilising to take on the government if it fails to drop plans to fast-track certain developments.

Three of those who have already signalled they cannot support any such plan to bypass normal planning procedures are the Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson, Ashford MP Damian Green and North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale.

Mr Henderson said enough was enough. “I have already told my whip that as things stand I will be opposing the Bill if there are no guarantees in it that my constituency, in particular, and the rest of Kent generally are protected from unsustainable developments,” he said.

“My constituency has changed beyond all recognition in the last 20 years because of the number of houses we have been expected to take. I have raised this issue a number of times in Parliament because I believe that Kent is being expected to take more and more housing to offset the shortfall in London.

Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson
Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson

"We have seen more and more development and we have to say enough is enough and let’s put the houses somewhere else but not in Kent.

“I don't care what else is in the Bill; if it does not include these guarantees for Kent and my constituency, I will vote against it.”

Other MPs hinted they too could rebel.

Ashford's Mr Green is quoted as saying: "Everything I hear makes me worry that the government is not going to do that. There will be more building in traditional Tory areas, without providing opportunities and jobs in the Red Wall."

Sir Roger added: “I’m not prepared to see the Garden of England turned into a building site.

Ashford MP Damian Green has reservations over planning reforms
Ashford MP Damian Green has reservations over planning reforms

"As far as I’m concerned, this is a developers’ charter... I think Boris needs to be looking at the Blue Wall because he may find it crumbles.”

The government insists that steps are needed to deliver more affordable homes and to do so much more quickly than at present.

Last year, Kent MPs were instrumental in forcing the government to back down over the use of an algorithm to predict revised house building targets.

The algorithm would have seen already heavily developed parts of the county have even higher building targets.

Having compelled a climbdown on one contentious aspect of the government's proposals, MPs are likely to feel confident of securing another.

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