Greg Clark MP unveils government plans to reduce planning red tape

Louise Stewart
Political editor, South East

Bank Farm livery yard near Tonbridge currently has an indoor riding school and stabling for 29 horses.

Due to increasing demand, the owner Harry Teacher was keen to expand his rural business.

But he says after spending months on his planning application and more than £5,000 in costs he was thwarted by red tape and permission was refused.

The government's draft planning policy, which was announced by the Planning Minister and MP for Tunbridge Wells Greg Clark, and has just been published, promises to be less cumbersome and give local people greater control.

Reducing red tape

Greg Clark says the new framework will be:

  • localist in its approach, handing power back to local communities to decide what is right for them;
  • user-friendly and accessible, providing clear policies on making robust local and neighbourhood plans and development management decisions.
Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Greg Clark hopes the planning system will become less cumbersome

But the Country Land and Business Association, the organisation which represents landowners and rural businesses, says the draft policy is too cautious and doesn't address the lack of rural housing or sustainable jobs.

Jonathan Roberts from the CLA says: "Planning plays a huge role in encouraging sustainable economic development in the South East, and this means national planning policy must encourage a broader, sustainable rural economy that goes further than just leisure and tourism."

And he says the problems faced by the stable's owner are far from unique in the South East.

Harry Teacher remains optimistic and says he will try again to get permission to expand his stables - but he's aware many other small rural businesses simply won't have the resources or time to negotiate the often complicated planning process.