Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 15 March

Certificate of lawfulness for the construction of a single storey rear extension

5 Church Lane Payhembury Honiton EX14 3HS

Ref. No: 20/2007/CPL | Validated: Fri 19 Mar 2021 | Status: Awaiting decision

Grassroots campaign maps – stronger together. Very few in South West

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/grassroot-campaigns-stronger-together-rosie-pearson

Astonishingly, the grassroots map already has 275 campaigns! It has been viewed 12,000 times.

List of campaign headings

For those campaigning against unsustainable housing, the pie chart below shows the number of houses proposed. 67% of campaigners are fighting developments of more than 500 houses. (Some of these results may be the local plan housing target as a whole):

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Revealed: Political Parties Used Loophole To Claim Covid Bailouts While Millions Got Nothing

A legal loophole in England has allowed branches of political parties to claim hundreds of thousands of pounds of public cash during the Covid crisis – even as millions of ordinary people were frozen out of help.

Rachel Wearmouth www.huffingtonpost.co.uk

A Freedom of Information investigation by HuffPost UK has revealed more than 22 local branches of political parties were handed £10,000 grants to pay their business rates for high street campaign offices. 

Branches of the ruling Tory Party claimed by far the most, a total of £150,000, with 15 Conservative Associations (CAs) applying to town halls for money. Seven Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) claimed £70,000 in total. One branch of each party subsequently repaid their share of the cash.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak set up a series of support schemes last year, giving councils the job of handing out money. 

No political party has been found yet to have successfully claimed in Scotland or Wales, where devolved governments issued stricter guidance to town halls. 

The Scottish government told councils: “No part of the grant shall be used to fund any activity or material which is party political in intention, use, or presentation, or appears to be designed to affect support for a political party.” 

In Wales, it was underlined to councils that grants were “targeted at supporting hospitality, leisure, retail, tourism and supply chain businesses”, adding: “Applicants have had to demonstrate a material impact on their business to be eligible for funding.” 

In England, however, the guidelines were more open, with organisations asked only to show they were forced to close during lockdown, and that their premises were subject to business rates.

The Conservative Party has said associations are “no different from other organisations in facing challenging times”. 

But it comes as small businesses complain of long delays to their grant applications to councils, and as millions of hard-pressed self-employed people remain cut off from government support altogether. 

Excluded UK, a campaign group set up to support those frozen out of state aid during Covid, said handing cash to political parties while businesses were folding was “very unjust”.

Rachel Flower, founder of the campaign, said there had been a “postcode lottery”, with different councils “applying the rules differently” for businesses, with a “large number” of Excluded members refused any grant. 

She said: “It seems very unfair that grants are being used in this way yet not for the small businesses for which we were all led to believe that they were intended.” 

The local parties who claimed include: 

  • Conservative Associations of serving ministers, attorney general Suella Braverman, foreign office minister Nigel Adams and solicitor general Michael Ellis;
  • The local Tory Party branch of Esther McVey, the former work and pensions secretary who has campaigned against supermarkets claiming rates relief;
  • The Tory Party branch of first secretary of state Damian Green and David Davis, though HuffPost understands the latter was returned;
  • Ten Conservative Associations who claimed from a Tory-led town hall, with five who claimed from Labour, Lib Dem or hung councils; 
  • Seven local Labour Party branches, including Stella Creasy’s Walthamstow, though HuffPost understands Walthamstow CLP subsequently returned the payment.

Our Freedom of Information requests also uncovered that grants and supports were handed to clubs that may raise cash for parties, including £162,000 that went to various Conservative clubs and £68,000 to Labour clubs. Parties do not run these organisations, however, and not all will be involved in raising political funds. 

Democracy campaigners have hit out at the trend of local party branches claiming public cash. 

Steve Goodrich, senior research manger with anti-corruption group Transparency International UK, said: “There are heightened sensitivities about the use of public funds during the current crisis, and especially so when they are received by political parties.

“Whilst it may be permissible for constituency parties to accept government support, doing so may risk appearing as self-serving, especially by those who have not been eligible for assistance.

“Given the current low levels of trust in politics, it would be prudent for them to think carefully about the broader impacts of them applying for this funding, especially when these organisations would be ineligible for similar relief in other parts of the UK.” 

Tom Brake, director of Unlock Democracy, a non-partisan pressure group campaigning for a written UK constitution, said: “People will be really unimpressed to learn that politicians, often already in receipt of taxpayers’ support, have seen their parties benefit from covid business grants too. 

“The UK government would have been well advised to look over the border to Scotland, where such payments were prohibited.”  

A Conservative Party spokeswoman said that councils decide whether a CA is eligible.  

They added: “Local political associations are no different from other organisations in facing challenging times. The purpose of the coronavirus support schemes is to protect small organisations and prevent local job losses.

“The funding from these schemes is in line with government guidance.”

The Labour Party declined to comment. 

Labour MP Stella Creasy said her CLP did not apply for the cash but was paid the grant automatically by the local authority. The money was repaid by the CLP last year, when this became apparent.  

Creasy said: ‘’Walthamstow CLP pays rates as a small business and so was automatically given this grant, without applying for it, by the local authority.

“When the officers of the CLP realised what had happened, they took steps to repay it.’

Covid grants handed out to Tory associations

Local associations select and campaign for parliamentary candidates.

Ashford Conservative Association (Tory MP Damien Green): £10,000

Bassetlaw Conservative Association (Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith): £10,000

Beverley and Holderness Conservative Association (Tory MP Graham Stewart): £10,000

Haltemprice Conservative Association (Tory MP David Davis): £10,000, later returned

Tatton Conservative Association (Tory MP Esther McVey): £10,000

Crewe and Nantwich Conservative Association (Tory MP Kieran Mullan): £10,000

Westmorland and Lonsdale Conservative Association (no local Tory MP): £10,000

Fareham Conservative Association (Tory MP Suella Braverman): £10,000 

Harrogate and Knaresborough Conservative Association (Tory MP Andrew Jones): £10,00

Hemel Hempstead Conservative Association (Tory MP Mike Penning): £10,000 

Romford Conservative Association (Tory MP Andrew Rosindell): £10,000 

Selby and Ainsty Constituency Conservative Association (Tory MP Nigel Adams): £10,000

Shipley Conservative Association (Tory MP Philip Davies): £10,000 

Northampton Central Conservative Association (Tory MPs Michael Ellis, Andrew Lewer and Andrea Leadsom), £10,000

South Suffolk Conservative Association (Tory MP James Cartlidge): £10,000 

Covid grants handed to Constituency Labour Parties 

Dartford Labour Party £10,000 (no Labour MP) 

Ipswich Labour Party £10,000  (no Labour MP) 

St Albans Labour Party £10,000 (no Labour MP) 

South Suffolk Labour Party £10,000 (no Labour MP) 

Suffolk County Labour Party £10,000 (no Labour MP

Walthamstow Labour Party £10,000 (Stella Creasy, payment returned)

Workington Labour Party £10,000 (no Labour MP) 

Retirement apartments scheme is rejected by planning inspector

Plans for a four-storey high development of retirement flats have been thrown out at appeal.

Kerry Ashdown www.stokesentinel.co.uk

Permission had previously been granted for 26 apartments in two blocks on the site at the corner of Stone Road and Cooperative Street in Stafford.

But Stafford Borough Council refused permission for a revised application that sought consent for 30 owner-occupied retired living flats. It followed concerns that the development would be overbearing to surrounding homes.

Now an appeal against the council’s decision has been dismissed by planning inspector Helen Hockenhull.

In her decision notice, she said: “The appeal proposal seeks to construct an additional four apartments by adding a third floor and roof garden to both blocks. The additional floor would be set back on the roof and feature railings would be provided around the roof gardens matching that of the balconies to the individual apartments below.

“The appellant has stated that the 26 approved apartments are not financially viable and the further four apartments proposed in the appeal scheme are required to assist overall scheme viability.

“No substantial evidence has been provided, however, such as a viability appraisal, to confirm and demonstrate this position. I am therefore unable to give this matter any weight in my decision.

“The appeal scheme, a four-storey development, would be out of character with the predominantly two-storey residential properties in the vicinity of the site. A development of this scale and height would form a visually dominant addition to the street scene, causing harm to the character and appearance of the area.

“The appellant has advised that the original property on the site was, in effect, four-storey, with three floors and a basement. However, the existing building had a smaller footprint and was centrally located within the site.

“The appeal proposal is not only higher by approximately 900 mm, but has a greater visual impact as it extends closer to the site frontages following the building line of properties on Cooperative Street.

“I acknowledge that there are four-storey buildings near to the appeal site. However, these are set back from Stone Road and form the backdrop to two-storey development fronting Stone Road and Cooperative Street. They do not therefore have the same visual impact and prominence in the locality.”

Stafford Borough Council’s planning committee considered the appeal decision at its meeting on Wednesday (March 17).

Councillor Bryan Cross said: “This was on the corner, just next to the railway bridge, where there was quite a substantial house which has been knocked down. They’ve flattened the house and there is just a pile of rubble there and the site is surrounded by a high wooden fence.

“It’ll be interesting to see how it progresses from there. Had it been built, it certainly would have overshadowed the houses opposite in Cooperative Street.”

Councillor Jack Kemp said: “There was some history attached to two of those villas. One of them was for a councillor Anderson and the other one was for Mr Hollins, who started from Railway Cottages and became a very important person in the town.

“They were really well-built, they had a lot of character. It was a shame it was knocked down, because I don’t think anybody thought that was going to happen.”

Robert Jenrick: We need to build on green fields

More homes will have to be built on greenfield land if the government is to hit its target of building one million homes before the next general election, the housing secretary has admitted.

Tim Shipman, Political Editor www.thetimes.co.uk

In a private call last week with MPs and donors, Robert Jenrick also suggested that there might need to be building on the protected green belt as well.

Jenrick made the comments in a video call with members of the Conservative Friends of India.

He stressed that the government wanted to “build on brownfield sites first”, but added: “We also know that we will have to build on some greenfield sites as well if we want to meet our overall housing targets, which are very significant.”

It was a “Conservative mission” to help “young people and those on low incomes back onto the housing ladder”, he said.

Where possible the government did not build on the green belt or protected places, Jenrick said.

But he added: “Where we do build on green fields, we are making sure that we are enhancing the natural environment with biodiversity net gain, which we are legislating for in the environment bill.”

Tom Fyans, the deputy chief executive of the CPRE, the countryside charity, seized on the comments and pointed out that the number of homes being built on the green belt was already rising.

The charity’s recent annual report, State of the Green Belt 2021, reveals that 257,944 homes are proposed for land removed from the green belt, nearly five times as many as in 2013.

Fyans said: “We support the brownfield-first approach. The huge increases in the pressure to release green-belt land for housing have been driven by the government forcing the hand of local authorities to meet unrealistic housing targets.”

In his talk Jenrick also said he wanted to “use the opportunity of Covid to convert more offices” in high streets “to bring more life into town and city centres”.

On Wednesday, Jenrick will unveil new planning rules that will make it easier to convert empty and derelict commercial properties into residential properties. The rules will also enable schools, colleges, universities and hospitals to add extensions without going through lengthy planning processes.

The housing department said: “We are prioritising building on brownfield land and revitalising town and city centres. Where there is home building in more rural areas, it needs to be sensitive and proportionate, and protect the local environment.”