Courtesy of Blackmore Vale
West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin has championed Government changes in planning law, claiming they will increase democracy at grass roots level.
He told the West Dorset group of the Campaign to Protect Rural England – CPRE – at its annual meeting that the introduction of Neighbourhood Plans would re-engage local people in the planning process.
Mr Letwin, speaking at Stratton, said approval or rejection of a planning application could be made in minutes depending on whether it complied with the Neighbourhood Plans. The Neighbourhood Plans would be able to over-rule district council planners on many local issues.
He said Neighbourhood Plans were already re-engaging local people in places including the Cerne Valley and Puddletown where the process was already underway.
He told his audience: “At parish level people do care intensely.
“Across Britain there are now 900 areas involved in preparing Neighbourhood Plans and this is where I place my faith in the future .
“These plans are meaningful and they can work.”
He also argued for a mixed economy of energy supply in the future and did not rule out wind turbines or solar farms in the right place with each application being considered individually.
Mr Letwin said that technological progress made it increasingly possible for alternative sources of power without the need for Government subsidy though some forms would still need financial support from the state for years to come.
In response to questions he said he was cautious about proposals for parts of Dorset and East Devon to be given National Park status because National Park Boards elsewhere had been detrimental to local democracy by over-ruling the wishes of local people.
Other speakers voiced concerns about farmland and farm buildings being converted for housing and land being taken out of production because it was more profitable to be used for homes .
Around 50 people attended the meeting at Stratton Village Hall. Reg Hanbury was re-elected chairman of the West Dorset group.