DevComms Director, Maria Allaway, looks at what the region’s MPs have been focusing on in January.
Second to ‘partygate’, for which PM Boris Johnson – also MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip – finds himself under the proverbial spotlight, a common discussion topic for most of West London’s MPs centred around Michael Gove’s statement in the House of Commons regarding building safety.
The statement preceded a letter to the residential development industry on 10th January, which sets out the Government’s approach to establishing commitments from developers and a framework to deliver a ‘lasting solution’ to fix the building safety crisis’.
Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North, said that the statement doesn’t go far enough given that leaseholders are dealing with other fire risks as well, such as unsafe insulation. He requested a windfall tax to help leaseholders who had already been waiting three years for a solution to come forward.
Similar concerns were echoed by Ruth Cadbury, Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth, who cited an example in her constituency where a building was deemed unsafe despite flammable cladding being removed two years previously. Claiming that the safety concerns were a result of the modular method of construction, she demanded up to date building safety regulations which deal with modern methods of construction.
Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith, also criticised the draft Bill for not going far enough, a sentiment echoed by Bob Blackman, Conservative MP for Harrow East. Andy Slaughter has concerns that it doesn’t extend to non-residential buildings that are affected, nor non-cladding defects or buildings below the threshold of 11 metres. He cited examples in other constituencies where planning applications are coming forward for developments that do not follow best practice.
Matthew Offord, Conservative MP for Hendon, welcomed Michael Gove’s statement that leaseholders will not have to pay to fix fire safety defects and that the onus falls on developers. However, he also added he will monitor the Bill to ensure that those commitments become law and ‘seek reassurances’ on behalf of those in buildings below 11 storeys and for those affected by internal defects.
Putney’s Labour MP, Fleur Anderson secured an adjournment debate speech to voice her concerns regarding building safety and leaseholders having to fund the substantial cost of remedial works. She cited a number of examples in her constituency and called for the Building Safety fund to be overhauled, so that buildings under 11 metres in height are included, non-cladding defects are also addressed and leaseholders have legal protection from having to cover costs.
In other news, MP for Chelsea and Fulham and Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change, Greg Hands MP, opened Shell’s first EV charging hub in Europe. The hub is located on Fulham Road.
Greg Hands also put forward the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill in the House of Commons. He spoke about how the Bill will finance new nuclear power stations, making the UK less dependent on foreign-owned developers and bringing in private sector and institutional funding. He also discussed and responded to proposed amendments made by a number of ministers, defending the Bill against a range of criticisms from opposition members. Discussion culminated in the agreement that the Bill is read for a Third time and passed.
In a discussion about the role of developers, housebuilders and management companies in building new homes, Chipping Barnet’s Conservative MP, Theresa Villiers, remarked that developer contributions should be ringfenced for the benefit of those communities ‘directly affected’ by new homes. She also suggested a range of measures to be introduced into the planning system.
On land banking, she suggested this could include permission being withdrawn if substantive works had not commenced by a targeted date. A further measure she suggested was an ‘end date’ where Council Tax becomes payable on every dwelling proposed, even if not built.
Another possible measure was a ‘character test’ which, for ‘people with a poor record in development’ means they can be ‘blocked’ at the planning stage. Finally, she suggested tax incentives for elderly people to downsize.
Over in Richmond, Liberal Democrat MP, Sarah Olney, called on her constituents to contribute to Richmond’s Draft Local Plan.
She advised that ‘at the heart of the draft Local Plan is the concept of a 20-minute neighbourhood – the idea that our towns and villages should be complete, compact, and connected neighbourhoods where most of the things we need for shopping or visiting are an easy walk or cycle away.’ Continuing, she suggested that this would allow communities to ‘live locally’ thus bringing a range of benefits such as an improved quality of life, encouraging healthier lifestyles and environmental benefits such as cleaner air and resilience against climate change. Consultation on the Draft Plan closes on 31st January 2022.
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