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Street votes on house extensions would 'cause tension between neighbours' says Swale council leader

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Plans to introduce 'street votes' to determine whether house extensions should be permitted could lead to tensions between neighbours, according to the leader of Swale council.

Cllr Mike Baldock, who heads the coalition in charge of Swale, said he wanted to see more detail of how the plan, announced in the Queen's Speech, would work.

Paul on Politics on Friday

The government says it wants to find ways of engaging the public more in planning.

Cllr Baldock told the latest edition of 'Paul On Politics' on KMTV: "If it means people can block development that is great; but if it means blocking the colour of the front door, then it is not much use.

"If it means handing back power to communities and not getting over-ruled by inspectors, I'm all for that. But if it means votes on extensions, are we going to see ballot boxes at the end of the road? I can see huge problems with that. It is going to be very divisive."

Meanwhile, there was a better reception for the Government's plans to scrap planning reforms dubbed a ‘developer’s charter’.

Swale council leader Cllr Mike Baldock (Swale Independents) Picture: Swale council
Swale council leader Cllr Mike Baldock (Swale Independents) Picture: Swale council

So-called 'zones' in which developers would have had an automatic right to build homes have been ditched, news that drew a guarded welcome by environment groups and MPs.

The government's climb down followed a backlash from its own MPs over fears that the system would be skewed in favour of developers.

The plans involved the introduction of zones in which developers would have been able to build homes without the need to get planning permission.

Kent MPs have been lobbying ministers to press for a rethink and a U-turn has now been confirmed in a draft bill.

MPs feared that residents concerns would be overlooked and lead to over-development.

Ashford MP Damian Green Picture: David Holbrook
Ashford MP Damian Green Picture: David Holbrook

Ashford MP Damian Green said: “I welcome the end of development zones but I will be reading the bill very carefully to make sure local people have more of a say in the whole development process.”

Richard Thompson of the Kent CPRE also gave a cautious response.

He said: “It seems the government is preferring to opt for more modest planning reforms to be incorporated into a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

"We also welcome the emphasis to give communities more involvement in shaping their local area as part of these planning reforms.”

"We are however more cautious with respect to exactly what “simplifying and standardising the process for local plans so that they are produced more quickly” will entail.”

The scale of opposition to the reforms were underlined last year when Conservative KCC leader Roger Gough wrote to MPs warning the issue could cost them seats at the county council election.

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