John Howell, villain of the piece!

The letters page of today’s Telegraph carrys a letter from John Howell MP, who is actually claiming responsibility for the Tory Party Open Source Planning document. It’s therefore not surprising that he is criticising the recent Telegraph article by Clive Aslet, that itself criticised the National Planning Policy Framework. Given John Howell’s reference to ‘his’ Open Source Planning document, the NPPF might be better named Open Door Planning Framework.

Incidentally, having had a swift look at John Howell’s CV, apart from a degree that refers to something to do with geography, I can see nothing to confirm that his views on planning are any better informed than my own.

John Howell’s letter makes an extraordinary statement that to me, displays a fundamental lack of understanding of how the planning system actually works or what the repercussions of the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ being enshirined in the NPPF will be. He claims that, far from being an open goal for the developers, it’s only there as ‘tool for putting plans together’. I assume he means neighbourhood plans as opposed to local plans, but even then, his ignorance is breathtaking. You only have to read the extremely enthusiastic comments of the development industry, to get their take on how wide a door they previously had to knock on, will now be thrown open by the NPPF. His claim that it will not be used as weapon by many developers, to force through approval of their individual applications, bears no relationship to what the reality will be.

Mr Howell’s claims that a town in his own constituency supports what the NPPF is trying to achieve, because they have been successful in their ambition to become a Neighbourhood Plan front-runner. What he doesn’t say and I suspect never thought to ask, is what do those promoting that neighbourhood plan want to achieve? Given that Thame is in the well heeled county of Oxfordshire and given how unpopular proposals for major development have been in the south of England to date, I would put some money on this particular neighbourhood plan being the opposite of what Mr Howell’s hopes it wil be.

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