Planning Minister Nick Boles has been asked to apologise to a Conservative MP for “costing him his seat” at the next General Election. Addressing members of the public in Leonard Stanley, Gloucestershire, Mr Boles was confronted by a life-long Conservative voter who said that the local MP, Neil Carmichael, would lose his seat thanks to the government’s unpopular planning reforms.
The Stroud News & Journal says that at the public meeting, Jolyon Neely, a local resident, asked Mr Boles: “Are you going to apologise to Mr Carmicahel and other Conservative MPs across the country that hold marginal seats? I have voted Conservative my whole life but I will not be doing so next year.”
Mr Neely accused the minister of costing the Conservative Party the next election “because of the policy you have put in place.”
Under the policy, local authorities must adopt a “housing plan” for the area detailing future developments they’d like to see. If an authority does not adopt such a plan, it is far easier for developers get permission to build in the area.
Mr Boles acknowledged that planning reforms had caused a “huge amount of upset”, but said that they would “ultimately lead to good things” thanks to increased housing supply.
He said: “The whole point of the Government’s planning policy is for every area to draw up a local plan to ensure that the needs of the local area are met.”
“When communities are left without a local plan that is when the problems arise as there is nothing in place to protect them from unwanted developments.”
Residents of the Gloucestershire village had successfully fought off an application to build 150 homes between Leonard Stanley and neighbouring King’s Stanley, but developers Gladman have now lodged an appeal.
When asked about the comments, the local MP blamed Stroud Labour for the situation, saying the party, who currently run the local council, had failed to draw up a housing plan, thus leaving the area “vulnerable to predatory developers”.
Nick Boles is one of the original “Notting Hill Set” of Conservative Party modernisers, along with David Cameron, George Osborne, Ed Vaizey and Michael Gove. The group are known for their metropolitan, socially liberal views, which often come into conflict with more traditional party members.
In November last year, he called for the creation of ‘National Liberal Party’ that would be affiliated to the Conservative Party, picking up liberal-minded voters who are not attracted to the traditional Conservative Party. The suggestion was criticised, with some saying it was a “crazy scheme” while others called it “patronising“.
Boles’ planning reforms have added an extra layer of antagonism from traditional, rural activists, who believe they make it easier to aggressive developers to build on green field sites, thus ruining the countryside.