Bravo, George Monbiot (England’s right-to-build laws are tokenistic and feeble – just ask the people of Totnes, 15 September). The warm words in the National Planning Policy Framework – “planning policies and decisions should be responsive to local circumstances and support housing developments that reflect local needs” – are trumped by the cold reality of market forces and the government, in a bid to build us out of Covid.
Monbiot’s conclusion that planning laws in general, and the Community Right to Build in particular, are “tokenistic and feeble” is borne out in the prime minister’s proposals to simplify the planning system, in which two of the three intended zones are pro-development. Basically, it’s a builders’ charter, with faint recognition of the need for affordable homes.
As someone who strongly advocates and works for the power of local communities to deliver for themselves, especially where there is a dynamic town or parish council, central government needs to invest and trust fully in local decision-making and provide local communities with the wherewithal to make this happen.
Dr James Derounian
National teaching fellow, Society of Local Council Clerks
• George Monbiot’s article is heartbreaking. But, as things stand, there is only one thing that courageous group in Totnes can do to stop their project being ruined. The law in relation to land use is not under democratic control; it can be used as any developer chooses because our political and therefore our legal system can be controlled by the companies that make and donate the most money. The Totnes group has already inspired other community initiatives, which have done a great deal of work in local politics to make the voices of the community heard. Thank you, George Monbiot, for sending out yet another call for concerted action at a local level.
• What the Totnes case demonstrates is that large-scale property development is a risky business that leaves more failures than successes, and that the so-called right-to-build laws do not confer a “right to acquire”.
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