Your monthly round-up of notable development-related goings on in Westminster, with DevComms director Charles Bushe providing an overview of what Thames Valley’s MPs have been up to over the past few weeks.

There has been continued friction regarding the White Paper on planning reform and the proposed new standard method for assessing local housing need.

The seemingly constant stream of MPs from the Thames Valley, of all political hues, lining up to criticise the proposals has continued undiminished.

During a debate in the House of Commons on Planning and House Building, constituency nearly-neighbours Theresa May (Maidenhead, Con) and James Sunderland (Bracknell, Con) presented a united front.

Theresa May called the proposed standard method ‘ill-conceived’ and James Sunderland asked whether she agreed that ‘very well-run councils are best placed to understand the local requirement’.

Theresa May did indeed agree, raising concerns that the current proposals would effectively punish local authorities who have delivered housing well in the past, by forcing them to ‘deliver even more in the future’.

In Reading East, Matt Rodda (Lab) continued his criticism of the White Paper by saying that the proposed changes ‘could have a damaging effect on the environment and ultimately would harm the quality of life for local people’. He raised concerns about the impact of unwanted developments on green land, the perceived deregulation of the planning system and the lack of focus on delivering the right mix of housing.

John Redwood, (Wokingham, Con) has called the Standard Methodology ‘another bad algorithm’. He set out three principles that he believes should underpin the planning system, which essentially comprise local input/control, levelling up across the country and the promotion of home ownership.

He believes that the proposals fail these tests and that ‘areas like Wokingham’ should take less development, thereby sharing ‘this growth and prosperity’ with other parts of the country.

HS2 has once again featured prominently over the past month, with Rob Butler (Aylesbury, Con) promoting on social media his attendance at an anti-HS2 protest in Aylesbury, as well as his request for a meeting with transport minister Andrew Stephenson to discuss ‘this astronomically expensive railway that no-one locally wants’.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, he requested that the Government engage with Wendover HS2 Group.

Greg Smith (Buckingham, Con) asked Christopher Pincher (minister of state for housing) whether having HS2 ‘forced through us’ would be taken into account when it comes to further development land that is required. Christopher Pincher responded by parroting the Government line on the ‘bold’ vision for the future of planning.

In other matters…

Resurrecting a well-worn theme, Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham, Con) asked the Prime Minister to re-designate the Chilterns AONB as a National Park, with no clear commitment provided by Boris Johnson who simply said that the Government would review each recommendation in Julian Glover’s Landscape Review.

In Newbury, Conservative MP Laura Farris has written to Highways England providing the results of her recent survey on how the A34 could be improved between Newbury and Oxford, and Alok Sharma (Reading West, Con) has welcomed the recent announcement of £18 million of Government investment into Theale, Tilehurst and Reading West train stations.

Laura Farris has in fact been rather busy this month, as she also wrote an article for Newbury Today at the beginning of October where she said it is time to think ‘boldly and creatively’ about our high streets.

She called for a discussion in Newbury amongst district and town councillors, local businesses and experts, to ‘harness the potential’ of the high street.

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