Tory Rebel Warns Boris Johnson Of Election ‘Spanking’ Over Planning Reforms

Bob Seely tells HuffPost UK the party’s electoral coalition could “unravel”.

The Tories’ voter coalition could “unravel” in an election “spanking” over Boris Johnson’s planning reforms, one of the party’s MPs has warned.

Bob Seely told HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast that “dozens” of Conservative MPs were now lining up against the prime minister’s plans because they fear house-building would be concentrated in the party’s southern heartlands.

He warned that the planning bill could give the Liberal Democrats a chance to “revive” in the south and start threatening Tory seats, stressing the party this month lost control of the council in his Isle of Wight seat “because people are fed up” of planning.

The new proposals risked becoming a “developers’ charter” to build on greenfield land, Seely warned.

He told Commons People: “If we end up with a developers’ charter, it won’t work and we will take an absolute spanking in the local elections and probably national elections from now on.

“And we will immediately start to unravel that amazing coalition that we’ve got.

“And actually that’s a really dumb thing to do.

“Tories lost control in the Isle of Wight because people are fed up, in part, of planning, people are fed up, in part, of development.”

Tory MP for the Isle of Wight Bob Seely
Tory MP for the Isle of Wight Bob Seely
Chris McAndrew/PA

Johnson is facing fresh rebellion over planning after MPs on his own side last year effectively killed off a so-called “mutant algorithm”, which would have dramatically increased house-building in southern Tory cities and shires.

But the PM is believed to think home ownership is key to cementing the party’s gains in the so-called “red wall” in the north and Midlands and returned with fresh proposals to overhaul planning in this month’s Queen’s Speech.

The government has said it wants to speed up the planning process to deliver new homes and infrastructure more quickly, at the same time as protecting the environment, as part of efforts to hit Johnson’s target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

But Tory rebels and countryside campaigners have warned that the bill will divide places into areas earmarked for either growth or protection, and that growth areas would undermine local democracy and give developers a green light to build on rural land.

Former prime minister Theresa May has said it would mean “the wrong homes being built in the wrong places”.

Seely meanwhile warned the government against casting opponents of the bill as “nimbys”, adding: “If you start throwing meaningless insults, it proves you’ve lost the case and actually, nimbys tend to be Tory voters.

“They are people that love their area, that care about it, who care about their communities, who very often take a part in the local plans because they realise they need homes, very often for their kids and grandkids.

“But at the same time, they reject the unsustainable, destructive, mass-produced, large-scale, low-density, car-dependent greenfield housing estates that just spoil the areas they are built on.”

Seely said the rebels are trying to unite around three issues: that development should be community-led, that it should be ambitious and focused on brownfield sites like London Docklands, and that it must be environment-led.

He said: “How on Earth are we going to meet carbon targets when we know the most inefficient form of housing environmentally, ecologically is low density greenfield housing?

“If government is going to be coherent, you can’t have an ‘anything goes, concrete the south-east and we’re going to be very, very green’ [strategy] - you do one or the other, you ain’t doing both”.

Seely also said there could be close to 100 Tory MPs opposed to the plans.

“There’s not 100 but there isn’t that far short of it - but those are people who have been concerned about the algorithm as well,” he said.

“If you are stripping away some local democracy and that’s combined with higher targets and no community say, and it gives a chance in the south for the Liberals to revive, then I think you are going to start to feel pressure.”


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