'It's like sending people to Rwanda': Ex-Labour MP on neighbours' extensions voting plan

11 May 2022, 16:44 | Updated: 11 May 2022, 16:50

'It's like sending people to Rwanda': Ex-Labour MP blasts neighbours' extensions voting plan
'It's like sending people to Rwanda': Ex-Labour MP blasts neighbours' extensions voting plan. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Tim Dodd

Former Labour MP Stephen Pound has told LBC the government's plans for neighbours to be allowed to vote on planning permission for developments on their street are "ill-thought out... like sending people to Rwanda" and could "overwhelm" the courts.

As part of the Queen's Speech, Prince Charles said on Tuesday that "the planning system will be reformed to give residents more involvement in local development" as part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

The bill was said to "give communities a louder voice", after previous attempts to reform planning were paused amid Conservative resistance.

Communities will be able to vote on whether planning permission should be granted for extensions to existing homes on their street.

Residents will also be allowed to decide rules governing the layout and materials used for new developments.

The Times reported that local residents will be permitted to hold referendums over the style and size of extensions, new homes and conversions on their street, as well as deciding whether more loft conversions and conservatories can be built without full planning permission.

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Mr Pound told Shelagh Fogarty: "The idea of having a neighbourhood veto on planning applications is one of the maddest, most potentially disruptive, corrosive, ludicrous schemes I have ever heard in my life.

"It's an absolute guarantee for litigation, lawyers will be rubbing their callous palms in glee at the thought of this.

"What you want in planning is objectivity. You don't want a subjective view of people who say 'we live in Richmond'... the people whose noise nuisance is playing Rachmaninoff in the wrong key.

"There's a thing called the Building Research Establishment, who actually set standards, proper mathematically, geometrically defined standards for things like loss of lights, amenities, and outlook.

"We should be working on a common standard, an objective standard, not this subjective nonsense of what the neighbours like and the neighbours don't like.

"Because I'm sorry, they're absolutely opening a can of worms, the likes of which will overwhelm the courts."

Mr Pound continued: "This whole thing, it's a bit like sending people to Rwanda, it's just ill-thought out. No one's actually considered the consequence of it."

The former Labour MP gave the example of someone who wants to build a loft extension but has had a dispute with their neighbour over parking.

"Is the neighbour then going to say I'm going to forget all this problem with the parking and I'm going to sign off on your loft extension?" he asked.

"No way! they're going to use that to twist the knife."

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