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Peter Lamb: Planning exists for a reason

Last month, I joined with hundreds of other elected representatives in calling for the Government to drop its plans designating exploratory drilling for fracking as ‘permitted development’.

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Permitted development is where any planning application of a particular type gets automatically approved. If you want to know why so many of Crawley’s office buildings have been turned into poor quality housing, without parking or even bin stores to keep the rubbish off of our high streets, it was because the Government’s made these types of office conversions permitted development.

For the council, they have been nothing but trouble, you see planning exists for a reason, it’s there to protect the whole community from developments that harm the wider community and to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is put in place to avoid future problems. Without planning we are powerless to protect the neighbourhoods from developments that enrich a few at the cost of the many and spend years playing catch-up with the problems. This opposition to ‘planning’ as a concept by the Government certainly explains a lot of the mess we now find ourselves in on the national level.

No major development should skip the planning process, but when it comes to fracking the situation becomes much more serious, depriving communities of any say on one of the most controversial environmental issues of the day. Given that the biggest UK protests against fracking took place just down the road at Balcombe, next to Crawley’s nearest reservoir, it’s an issue which really hits close to home.

Fracking involves using various chemicals to break open rocks below the groundwater level to release the fossil fuels trapped inside. While it is believed that a well-regulated system can avoid polluting water supplies, where poor regulation is in place communities have found serious health issues emerging after fracking has begun. In the rush to attract fracking the Government has left us with one of the least well-regulated systems in Europe.

Were fracking completely safe, it would still be worth asking if we can afford to delay a switch to renewable energy sources. Instead the Government is trying to ensure that the wishes of communities are by-passed, regardless of the potential risks to people’s homes and health.

A full copy of the letter can be read below:

Dear James Brokenshire MP (CC Greg Clark MP, Kit Malthouse MP, Claire Perry MP),

The UK government has proposed changes to planning rules that would allow exploratory drilling for shale gas to be considered “permitted development”, removing the need for fracking companies to apply for planning permission.

The current planning framework for shale gas provides an important regulatory process for the industry, offering necessary checks and balances by local authorities who best understand the circumstances in their areas. Crucially, it also allows communities directly affected a say in how, and whether, shale gas exploration proceeds in their neighbourhoods.

We believe that applying permitted development to exploratory shale gas drilling represents a distortion of its intention and is a misuse of the planning system. Permitted Development was originally intended to be used to speed up planning decisions on small developments – like garden sheds or erecting a fence – not drilling for shale gas.

As elected representatives of our communities, we the undersigned call for the withdrawal of this proposal, and respect for the right of communities to make decisions on shale gas activities in their areas through the local planning system.

Yours Sincerely,

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Opinion

Henry Smith: Delivering on Crawley’s priorities

In his final article before polling day, Henry Smith speaks directly to the voters of Crawley.

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Tomorrow, the people of Crawley will decide the future of our town and the whole country.

The choice could not be clearer. A Jeremy Corbyn government, propped up by the Scottish Nationalists, or a majority Conservative Government which will secure further support for our NHS and our schools, recruit 20,000 more police officers, and get Brexit done.

On polling day I will be campaigning across town. Throughout this election I have been speaking to local residents seeking support for my plan for Crawley:

  • Investing further in Crawley’s NHS is a priority: Bring further services back to Crawley Hospital and increase provision of GP practices – an issue I raised with the new government on Boris Johnson’s first full day as Prime Minister.
  • Expanding opportunity: Securing record high funding for Crawley schools of £82.8 million and ensuring continued local economic growth with high quality jobs are vital for our town’s future.
  • Further infrastructure investment: From transport to telecommunications, I have successfully lobbied for millions of pounds in extra funding to upgrade local roads and railways. Expanding superfast broadband and 5G are vital too, both for individuals and businesses to connect.
  • A clean, green and safe town: Demanding Crawley Borough Council address their poor record on recycling and litter. Although Crawley police officer numbers have remained stable in recent years, now further increasing officer numbers is a pledge I fully back to tackle anti-social behaviour and crime. Recently I was delighted to speak with some of the 129 new Sussex Police recruits who will further boost those patrolling our town and keeping us safe. In total Sussex Police will have 379 extra officers joining the force.
  • Security in work and retirement: Supporting those who work hard and want to get on by reducing taxes as well as looking after local people in retirement.
  • Delivering Crawley’s vote to leave the EU: Ensuring we take back control of our laws, borders and trade, whilst building on new opportunities across the world. This is not just about the UK’s independent sovereign future but respect for our democracy.

Your polling station will be open from 7am until 10pm on Thursday 12th December. We have 15 hours to elect a majority Conservative Government, which will deliver record investment in the NHS, keep our economy strong and debt low, and take back control of immigration with an Australian-style points system.

People are fed up of politicians saying one thing and doing another. Let me take one issue of importance for every Crawley parent; Boris Johnson promised to uplift school funding. This work started when he became Prime Minister, and the Conservative Manifesto reiterates the extra £14 billion in funding for schools – £150 million a week, including at least £5,000 a year per secondary school pupil and at least £4,000 for each primary school pupil.

This also includes £780 million in new funding to support children with Special Educational Needs – a point I have continued to pursue with the Government.

For the last nine and a half years I have sought to be a strong voice for our town and to stand up for Crawley in the House of Commons. I ask for the honour of continuing to serve.

Henry SmithConservative
Parliamentary Candidate for Crawley

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