A FURIOUS Worcestershire MP has attacked delays in getting the county’s main growth blueprint approved - saying “World War Two” took less time to sort out.
During a passionate Westminster debate this afternoon, Harriett Baldwin blasted the planning system as “byzantine” and said the county is being “strangled” by the delays.
The Conservative, who represents West Worcestershire, fears the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) hold-up “could easily run” to the end of next year.
As your Worcester News revealed last month the document is being revised after an independent inspector said the current 23,000 homes in it isn’t enough.
Inspector Roger Clews wants councils in Worcester, Malvern and Wychavon, which worked on the plan in a joint effort, to increase it by as much as 39 per cent.
Mrs Baldwin secured a debate on it at Westminster today, and said the delays are costing money, harming the economy and are bad for democracy.
She said: “Frankly, World War Two took less time than the bureaucracy and red tape surrounding this local plan.
“And what is worse, all this bureaucracy and red tape is actually strangling housing growth in our area.
“Our desire is to see house building start according to a democratically agreed local plan.”
She said it was being held up due to a “difference of opinion” over whether the 23,000 will be enough many years from now, despite all three councils agreeing to review the SWDP in 2019.
“We’re talking about a difference of opinion many years into the future, but it is not possible to have perfection,” she said.
“If we all had perfect foresight, we’d be able to retire as billionaire as we’d all know what the stock market prices would be.”
She also said councils are now “at the mercy” of developers submitting speculative planning applications which inspectors can overturn on appeal, labelling the system “byzantine”.
During the debate she called for any forthcoming appeals to be decided upon using the SWDP as an “emerging plan”, rather than ignore it, as is the current practise.
Her speech was backed by Worcester MP Robin Walker and Mid-Worcestershire’s Peter Luff, who also criticised the delays.
Mr Luff said: “It is crucial we get this plan approved as soon as possible - speed is of the essence.”
The district councils are currently working on a fresh formula which will lead to a new, higher figure for the number of homes in the SWDP.
Mr Clews will then have to resume his examination, and will either ask for more further changes or agree to give it the nod.
Mrs Baldwin said under a new timetable, the second part of his two-stage examination will only start in March, but it could be even later if more revisions are needed.
The SWDP also earmarks land for 30,000 new jobs by 2030.