Laura Trott’s questions in the House of Commons
House-building in Sevenoaks:
Both on Housing, Communities and Local Government: Housing Supply (24 Feb 2020)
What steps he is taking to increase the supply of housing to meet demand?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. Can he reassure the House that this very welcome house building will not come at the expense of green belt, especially in Sevenoaks?
KWG member’s letter
One of Keep Westerham Green’s members wrote to Laura Trott before the news of SDC’s Judicial Review was launched on 17th April. He urged her to follow up with the Housing and Communities Minister that fact that the Inspector, making an arbitrary decision, had done so entailing considerable waste of public resources.
‘.. The inability of the Inspectorate and the District Council to find a compromise into their entrenched positions and deliver a workable Local Plan for the people of Sevenoaks is disgraceful. That they should have signally failed after the expenditure of an enormous amount of taxpayers’ and residents’ money is worthy of independent enquiry.
Evidence concerning the “non compliance” – the sole reason for the Inspector’s rejection of the SDC plan – was given on the first day of the planning enquiry. The Inspector then continued for a further 14 days before deciding to stop the hearing.
Your constituents were heavily involved in the planning process with an unprecedented number of comments being submitted from the general public and from local town councils and residents’ organisations. A considerable amount of their time and money was spent in the belief that it was important to the future of Sevenoaks to get the new Local Plan right and adopted. In the main they were supportive of the plan put forward by SDC for adoption. Clearly these residents are losing trust in the democratic process now that their views have been set aside by the Inspector’s decision to not even conclude consideration of the plan.
The SDC Plan is the first to go through the Local Plan Examination Process under the 2019 NPPF and under the Government’s new methodology for calculating housing need. An independent review could determine whether the Inspector has interpreted correctly this new process.
In view of the above I would urge you to seek an early meeting with Robert Jenrick to request that he makes a personal intervention by calling in Karen Baker’s report for review. Also that you and he should endeavour to bring together the views of Karen Baker and Cr Peter Fleming so that this distressing and damaging situation can be brought to an early conclusion.
I trust you will agree that Sevenoaks residents deserve to have the Plan fully considered, if necessary amended, and then put in place. They do not deserve to be left without a Plan for years and then to go through the whole process again at great cost merely because an arbitrary deadline was missed which would have made no material difference.
The response from Laura Trott MP
‘… Thank you for your letter to Laura concerning the local plan. She has read your email and has asked me to tell that she fully shares your concerns.
Laura since being elected has been supporting the District Council. She appreciates how much work went into preparing the local plan, with huge engagement from local residents and other local organisations. She believes the hearing should not have been called to a halt.
She has spoken with council leader Peter Fleming on many occasions on the topic, offering her full assistance. She raised this matter in the House, written a joint letter with the Dartford and Tonbridge & Malling MPs (who also cover a part of the District) to the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick, subsequently meeting with him. She later received a letter from the then Housing Minister and a meeting was being arranged to discuss the Sevenoaks Local Plan, before there was a change of Minister.
The process of the Local Plan is a quasi-judicial process and now that that the plan has been halted, the council must decide whether to challenge the decision in the High Court. Rest assured Laura will continue to support the council and once Parliament sits again will continue to raise this matter.
Office of Laura Trott MBE MP
MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley
House of Commons’
Since March of this year Laura Trott has been a member of the Health and Social Care Parliamentary Select Committee.