When he denies having been contacted by the council about government planning policy (Watford Observer website report, 29 July), Dean Russell MP appears to have ‘conveniently forgotten’ the meeting he attended in March at which the council’s head of planning policy and I explained to him in detail the impact that the Government’s housing targets, and its stated aim of ‘turbo-charging’ development, are having on Watford.
The Government’s approach includes increasing our housing targets from 260 to nearly 800 a year, letters sent from government ministers telling us off for building too few homes, the threat of powers being taken away if we don’t deliver more, and a seemingly endless stream of changes to the planning system that further tilt the rules in favour of developers.
The recent scandal of Secretary of State Robert Jenrick attempting to grant permission for a scheme in London while letting the developer off providing affordable housing and new infrastructure is a sign of the Government’s intentions.
Given the local impact of the Government’s zeal for more intensive development, it was disappointing that at the meeting in March, Mr Russell offered nothing but empty platitudes, and more disappointing still that he now has no memory of it happening.
I suspect the problem is that, like other Conservative MPs, he is embarrassed that the Government he supports is forcing unpopular development on his constituency, so he washes his hands of the whole thing and pretends it’s not happening. He doesn’t dare offend his party whips by opposing government policy, but also wants to wriggle out of responsibility for that policy.
He has no constructive suggestions as to how Watford deals with his party’s target of 800 homes a year within our tight eight square mile area. He doesn’t even seem to think the target is excessive, yet offers crocodile tears when the kind of development that it necessitates gets approved.
There is a real problem that the Government is imposing too much development on Watford, is making it harder to deliver affordable housing and is failing to provide the infrastructure needed to cope with it. It needs a more active response from our MP than Mr Russell’s approach of indifference and selective amnesia.
Cllr Iain Sharpe (Liberal Democrat)
Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Development
Watford Borough Council