OPINION

Tory exploitation of ‘urban fringe’ issue cruelly, cynically and unfairly raises residents’ expectations

Posted On 06 Oct 2020 at 2:13 pm

One can’t help avoid the recent background noise generated by Tory councillors as they rove around the city, looking for any opportunity to exploit the worries and concerns of residents over the current public consultation on the City Plan Part 2 –  the exciting and comprehensive strategic vision for our city for the next 10 years that was carried with unanimous backing from Labour and Greens earlier this year.

Tory-sponsored petitions and leaflets abound, attempting to spread misinformation about the very small amount of urban fringe, less than 7 per cent, earmarked for possible (not definite) affordable housing development and, ironically, given their disingenuous affectations as environmentalists, the ecological renewal of Benfield Valley.

One does not need to look too closely to see the cynical manoeuvres from the party of the big property developer and the land speculator which received over £11 million in party donations from property businesses last year.

Local Tory councillors fail to mention, in their campaigning, despite being fully aware of the situation, that their own government has, through its undemocratic centralised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), forced our city to earmark some of the same fringe sites for possible development.

When the council tried to protect sites like Whitehawk Hill several years ago, the planning inspector – working for a Tory government – required the council “to assess more rigorously all opportunities to meet the city’s housing need” and reconsider the potential for housing development on urban fringe sites.

In short, if at least some urban fringe is not included in the plan, the Tories know that we risk losing control of our entire plan and the protection of all of our green fringe.

Local Tory attempts to jump on to the campaign bandwagon are nothing short of a cruel and cynical means of unfairly raising expectations of local residents as they very well know that locally we have no option to remove further “urban fringe” land because their own government has told us so.

Even more concerning is the deafening silence from the same councillors in the face of the deeply alarming government “white paper” on planning proposals – proposals that would rip up the last vestiges of the Town and Country Planning Act legislated by the post-war Labour government to empower and give voice to local people over their communities and stop the scourge of the speculative developer.

The local Conservative group have repeatedly refused to sign a joint cross-party letter initiated by Brighton and Hove Labour, calling on the Secretary of State to drop his proposals.

Their true intentions are quite clear – cynical attempts at the hijacking of valid and important local campaigns while at the same time giving a blank cheque to developers to build wherever they like.

The Tory white paper, has been described by the Royal Institute of British Architects as “shameful” and would “pave the way for the slums of the future”.

The Town and Country Planning Association describes them as a “dilution of democracy” and the Campaign for Rural England as “pitiful” and a missed opportunity in their failure to achieve carbon neutrality until 2050.

The Tory proposals are a developer’s charter. They would

  • dilute the current requirement for property developers to provide affordable homes for the 9,000 households on our housing waiting list
  • remove Brighton and Hove’s ability to block unacceptable developments
  • end the requirement for developers to make a social contribution to our city through the scrapping of “section 106 contributions” and the Community Infrastructure Levy

Most terrifying of all, they would require us, according to Local Government Association (LGA) data, to increase our housing target by 287 per cent – which would mean an unprecedented attack on the urban fringe.

It is craven opportunism of the highest order for the Tory group to oppose our attempts to build social houses for families and older people on a tiny fraction of urban fringe land and then back their Westminster colleagues to try to concrete over the lot!

Part of Benfield Valley and Hangleton behind

City Plan Part 2 will bring enormous benefits to our city including clamping down on the proliferation of HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) and inappropriate development, protecting local shopping parades and pubs – and setting down tough new environmental standards for new developments.

It will also facilitate the building of desperately needed social housing for the 9,000 households on our city waiting list.

And importantly it will protect at least 92 per cent of our cherished urban fringe from future development and designate Benfield Valley as a “special area” – a green wedge and link from our city to the South Downs National Park.

Councillor Nick Childs is a member of Brighton and Hove City Council and speaks for the opposition Labour group on the council’s Planning Committee.

  1. Jenny Mulligan Reply

    Plenty of room for housing on the grounds of your daughter’s school overlooking the cliffs at Roedean.

    • Angry from Queen's Park Reply

      Really, let me explain if I can. The blue team are using the media. E.g Bicycle lanes cause chaos.
      The article also reports how developers are not including affordable property as they were supposed. His last point is about trying to protect the ‘green fringe.’
      Salacious comments that are unsupported with relevant facts, is how we like to muddle along. However, how can you have co-operation with so much slurring. How can anyone take anyone seriously, when you write about them, rather than their words?

      • Rolivan Reply

        Cllr Childs stepped down from a Ci.mittee because he didn’t have the time and yet what did he do soon after!

  2. Nick Reply

    This article seems to criticise one party playing politics by another party playing politics! After hearing some of the ETS committee last week, there’s lots of talking and very little listening. For years, none of the parties has held a majority – it should all be done by co-operation. Yet instead the local politicians spend more time point-scoring among each other rather than working for the city. And very few follow any of these debates anyway!

    I also don’t understand why city plan part 2 is needed to build more social housing. This has been promised for years without this plan – and very few new units have been delivered. So please, stop the posturing. Work together and try to deliver for the city!

  3. Nathan Adler Reply

    Cllr Childs has to be one of the most fatuous councilors out there – absent from the ward he loves playing party politics rather than local politics.

  4. PickledPlumb Reply

    Do you need to have gone to Roedean to understand this article?
    Worrying that someone who works for a teaching union can write an opening sentence that makes absolutely no sense.
    There is actually a lot to criticise the Tories about, both nationally and locally regarding Planning. But not with this incomprehensible nonsense.

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