Tory MPs urge housing secretary to call in Kent local plan

A trio of Conservative MPs have urged the secretary of state for housing to call in an emerging local plan that is at the centre of a stand-off between a Tory-run Kent council and the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).

Laura Trott MP. Pic: UK Parliament
Laura Trott MP. Pic: UK Parliament

Laura Trott MBE, Tom Tugendhat MBE and Gareth Johnson have jointly called on Robert Jenrick to use his powers under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 to call in Sevenoaks District Council’s draft local plan.

In her final report on the plan, which was issued in March following an examination last year, inspector Karen Baker asked Sevenoaks to withdraw its local plan.

The report concluded that the plan was not legally compliant in respect of the duty to co-operate because Sevenoaks had not satisfactorily worked with neighbouring authorities to accommodate homes it could not plan for due to green belt and other restrictions.

However, the local authority has refused to withdraw the document and subsequently launched a legal challenge to the inspector's decision.

In their sent letter this week, the MPs have asked Jenrick to use his powers to ensure that the Planning Inspectorate’s recommendation is reconsidered.

Trott, who was David Cameron’s special adviser when he was Prime Minister before becoming MP for Sevenoaks at last year’s election, said: “It is obviously important that the need for housing is not only recognised but also met by the local plan. I fully support this.

"However, a local plan must also be robust so that local authorities can ensure the right type of developments happen in the right place, at the right time. Sevenoaks District Council has spent the last four years working diligently to achieve this.”

Tom Tugendhat, who is chairman of the foreign affairs select committee as well as MP for Tonbridge and Malling, said “It is essential that development happens to meet housing need, but only in the right places.

"I am concerned that the Planning Inspectorate stalling the local plan is putting at risk the hard work in developing a plan that works for the district.”

“It is not right for the Planning Inspectorate to block this for the reasons they have given, when the evidence is clear that Sevenoaks District Council met its requirements.”

Meanwhile, Gareth Johnson, MP for Dartford, said Sevenoaks plan is “sensible” and meets the inspectorate’s requirements.

Julia Thornton, the council’s cabinet member for development and conservation, said: “Our MPs recognise we have produced a robust local plan to provide the right type of developments in the right place, at the right time.

"They share our concerns about the handling of the local plan examination. We’re grateful for their support and we hope this moves the plan forward.”

In a separate development, Sevenoaks Council has been granted permission to bring a judicial review against the inspector’s decision to reject the draft local plan.

A housing ministry spokeswoman said it would be inappropriate to comment because the inspector's report is now subject to judicial review proceedings.

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