The demise of democracy

Somehow the Government have decided, contrary to the evidence, that  the planning system is holding up the building of new homes so, in the Queens speech, it was unveiled that the biggest shake up to the planning system since 1947 is on the cards.

The proposed reforms will make it more difficult for existing homeowners to block development. Planning designations will be given to wide swathes of the countryside giving “planning permission in principle”. This would be done at “plan stage” perhaps years before the houses are actually built and certainly in many cases against the wishes of local people.

It is the death of Localism, the birthplace of Neighbour Plans that put planning decision making into the hands of local people. Who better to guide the growth of communities whilst protecting the delicate balance of progress over nature?

Yet the promise was empty, the policies created at grass roots simply overthrown by the folks in Westminster.

To put it simply – whereas you currently have two opportunities to comment on planning proposals, once during the making of the Local Plan and then again as each application included in the Plan, and any that aren’t, come forward for consideration.  If this legislation goes through, you will only have one!

It started with a manifesto promise. “We will build 300,000 new homes a year” they said.

The problem is, “they” can’t actually force landowners and developers to build. The Guardian  reports a study by the Local Government Association (LGA)  that shows that there are over 1.1 million planning permissions for homes in the UK that have yet to be built. It’s not that difficult to guess why. Supply and demand; simple economic principles.

Most (if not all) developers have one aim – to make a profit. If they build all at once, they will flood the market and, with more homes available than buyers, yes you guessed it, the price will fall. So, a vicious circle of development is created.

Government says “There is a shortage of housing”, it then sets targets for councils to allocate more land for homes and grant planning permission. But developers hold back supply of new houses to keep the price high (land banking). The result: Not enough homes are built and we still have a shortage of housing.

We see the problem clearly. We have spoken to our MP about it and our concerns about the impact of the proposed changes to the planning system on democracy.  We hope that many of you will do the same.

Cllr Heather Hayward Shortlisted for 2020 LGIU & CCLA Cllr Award

The LGIU and CCLA have just announced the shortlists for this 2020 Councillor Awards.

We are delighted to tell you that our colleague, Cllr Heather Hayward of Ashford Borough Council is among them! Heather has been shortlisted for the 2020 Cllr Awards for Community Champion

Cllr Heather Hayward, Roman Ward, Ashford

The Cllr Awards are the only national ceremony to celebrate the vital contributions of local councillors.  2020 marks the 11th year of showcasing the achievements of councillors across England, whose hard work often goes unrecognised. These Awards highlight what local councillors do for their communities.   Competition was extremely tight again this year with over 200 nominations received across the nine categories that celebrate the varied work of councillors. Some of the awards up for grabs include Covid-19 Hero and Collaborative Working (new for 2020) alongside the coveted Community Champion, Leader of the Year and Young Councillor of the Year awards. The full shortlist is included below. The winners will be decided by a panel of judges composed of senior councillors and officers as well as leading stakeholders from across the sector. Due to the ongoing health crisis, this year’s ceremony will take place virtually on Thursday 26th November with special speakers and guests.  This year’s awards are made possible thanks to the generous support of founding partners CCLAJonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive, LGIU said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has presented this country with a set of challenges that few could have predicted. However, councillors up and down the country have risen to these challenges and stepped up to plate for their communities. From delivering food parcels to vulnerable residents and sourcing PPE for frontline workers to finding temporary accommodation for the homeless, local government has kept the country safe and moving.  It is for this reason that we are particularly proud to unveil the shortlist for this year’s Cllr Awards. Their achievements showcase the best of local government at a time when the country faces one of the greatest hardships of our lifetime. We would like to congratulate all of those councillors shortlisted and look forward to revealing the winners on the 26th of November.”  ENDS

About LGIUThe Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) is a think tank and membership body with over 200 councils and other organisations subscribing to our networks. We work to strengthen local democracy and put citizens in control of their own lives, communities and local services. For more information, visit 

About CCLACCLA is a leading specialist fund manager for local authorities and charities. When they began sponsoring the Cllr Awards they had 22 local authority accounts. Today they have over 700 and this number is growing every month. They are owned by their clients – their mission is to serve the whole sector, regardless of size. 

About the Nominee An independent Ashford Borough Councillor since May 2019, Heather is a mum of four children and works full time as a Quality Director in a local manufacturing company.  She is passionate about making a difference to her local community and putting local people first. On seeing a fly tipped vacant piece of land in her ward last year, she approached the council and asked if she could turn it into a community garden. The Limes Community Garden charity was then formed and in just 9 months since clearing and securing the land, it’s become a thriving hub of community activity for all ages and backgrounds. 

About the Awards Category

Community Champion
Community involvement is essential to ensuring that the council takes the right decisions for its citizens. Effective councils will have many mechanisms to inform, consult and involve local people in the business of the council, and elected members are at the heart of this dialogue. The community champion of the year will have worked tirelessly to use their position within the council to bring residents’ voices into council decision-making, support their projects and ideas, and bridge diverse opinions within the community.

Ashford Independents biggest winners in Ashford Borough Election 2019!

With our intense focus on local issues it was a rather strange feeling to see BBC News announce our success in the Ashford Borough Council Elections last week – telling the world that the Independents had slashed the Tory majority.

Eleven of our fifteen candidates were duly elected to represent their Wards. The trend was repeated across the country in an exciting day for those standing to make a difference in Local Politics.

The Tories still have a majority in Ashford, but it is significantly reduced after losing 13 seats.  Altogether the other parties elected now hold 21 seats between them, with the Conservative Party holding 26. The BBC stated “ The party’s hold on the Borough Council, which has been subject to boundary changes, has been loosened, largely by independents.”

Through your support, we have achieved our goal in this Election.  We are now an opposition force in Ashford Borough Council, which has been driven by the Big Party Machine for far too long. For many years people have been telling us that their Council does not listen – well, now, in nine Wards at least, your representative is on the ground and ready to do just that.  Ashford Independents is a group of local residents who feel that Local decisions should be made democratically by local people, not to support national party policies – but to meet the needs of our community, our families and their future needs, first and foremost. We will be working to achieve this over the next four years – after which you will be able to judge whether you can feel the difference and vote accordingly.

We are grateful for the chance you have given us and look forward to the challenges that will undoubtedly lie ahead.

Noel Ovenden.