Planning and development have once again become a big national political issue, with the Government between a White Paper and new legislation, and the voters of Chesham and Amersham showing their teeth.
We all know that housing growth is a permanent issue, and that the balance between providing new houses for young people and preserving our green fields is a hugely difficult one. I support the approach that combines major high-quality big developments to provide most of the numbers (as Chilmington Green is designed to do) with a small trickle of new houses in villages to prevent stagnation.
As a principle this is a way to prevent the wrong houses being built in the wrong places, and in particular a way to stop the Garden of England being turned into a patio. This is a phrase I first used about proposals from John Prescott (remember him?) and have had to use sorrowfully about the latest White Paper.
Proper local plans are fine if everyone plays their part, but there are still problems with developers. The most serious is when they use the planning permissions they have very slowly, so that the targets for housing growth are not met. This is turn allows opportunistic development applications of the type we have seen in a number of our villages, which are not wanted.
Also, the quality of the houses built is too often not good enough. If people buy a new house they are entitled to expect it to be properly finished. They are also entitled not to be shocked by rapidly rising charges for ground rent and other services.
All of these problems are current in one or other of the major developments around Ashford, and I am trying to help residents, who are often new to the area and optimistic about its future, to navigate them. Planning only occasionally grabs national headlines, but it is permanently a huge issue for me.