One of the legacies of the last government is John Prescott’s disastrous stint in charge of planning. Whilst, the new government has made a fresh start – scrapping the South East Plan (with its arbitrary housing targets) and announcing plans to tackle ‘garden-grabbing’ and illegal traveller sites – it will not be possible to roll back all the damage done. However, this week I wrote to the Communities Secretary to ask him to review Prescott’s 2005 approval of plans to build a service station off the M25, near Downside.
I have seen no convincing case for building this service station, in terms of transport or road safety. It tramples on both local democracy (Prescott overruled Elmbridge council’s refusal of permission) and our green belt – and risks becoming a magnet for crime in the area. Generally, planning is a matter for the borough council – not the MP – and it is unclear what legal grounds there are for the Secretary of State to look at the planning permission anew. However, in these circumstances – where local democracy has been overruled, and our green belt is under threat – I believe it is right for me to intervene and request the government to look at the matter again.