Sir Nicholas Soames's Speech During the Debate on the Neighbourhood Planning Bill - Tuesday, 13th December, 2016

The speech that Sir Nicholas made yesterday in a brief intervention during the Remaining Stages of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill in support of Nick Herbert’s amendment which Sir Nicholas co-sponsored.

House of Commons
Tuesday, 13th December, 2016

Neighbourhood Planning Bill

Sir Nicholas Soames

I have been bullied by the Whips into making only a very short intervention, so I am not able to expand on the extensive views that I wished to favour the House with. However, I thought that I should not let the moment pass without my thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) for his immensely touching description of betting shops which, as we all know, are havens of peace, tranquillity, excitement and—

Philip Davies


Sir Nicholas Soames

Yes, virtue. They are great places to be, and they make a tremendous and important contribution to the money-lending business. I say to my hon. Friend that he was extremely patronising about my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) who, like myself, has probably spent many, many happy hours in gambling shops, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley knows I have. I have nothing but the very highest opinion of them. My hon. Friend gave us a particularly touching exposition and I hope the House will pay no attention to it. I thank my hon. Friend the Housing and Planning Minister for his courtesy, kindness and consideration, and for the immense efforts he makes on behalf of all of us to try to ensure that we have a fair planning system in this country.

I, of course, support amendment 28, which was tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for the imperial town of Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell). I am delighted that he will not pressing it to a Division, but I am completely on his side and thought he made a powerful case. The decision that his constituents have had to cope with is certainly very unpleasant.

I am really speaking to support my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), who is my close friend and parliamentary neighbour. He and I are currently struggling as Mid Sussex District Council is undergoing an examination in public. As my hon. Friend the Minister knows, Mid Sussex has made 14 parish and town council plans, which is something of a record. That is an extraordinary achievement. The local communities have worked immensely hard, with ​great credibility and integrity, only to find that all their efforts are constantly undermined and challenged by the most unscrupulous building lobby it has ever been my pleasure to have to deal with.

At the examination in public, at which my right hon. Friend and I appeared on the second day, I was astonished to see the range of what the builders produced. They had bogus development forums that had been rushed together to try to present them as reputable. Their lobbying is aggressive and, in my view, totally unacceptable. Even our local enterprise partnership is chaired by a builder. They seek to interfere, very unhelpfully, in the work of the planning authorities.

The hon. Friend the Minister knows of the infamous application by Mayfield Market Towns to build a completely unwanted new settlement to the south of my constituency and partially in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs. It has been turned down time after time. No one wants it and it is not in any plan, yet the builders continue to chip away at the fabric, integrity and credibility of the plans.

In supporting the very sound and sensible new clauses tabled by my right hon. Friend, all I wish to say to the Minister is that I hope he understands that councils such as Mid Sussex are fighting a losing battle. There need to be clear rules and a clear understanding that there is a spirit that is entered into, because at the moment the house builders act quite outside the spirit and intention of the law. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) said in her excellent speech, it is quite unacceptable that all this hard work is undone by some completely unacceptable lobbying.


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Volume 618. No 80

The full debate can be downloaded via the following link -