IT WAS really disappointing to hear the announcement from the Government last week about their proposed reforms to the planning system.

We in the Labour Party have long been lobbying government to give local authorities greater control over the planning system. We want to close loopholes that allow for land-banking and stop developers side-stepping affordable housing obligations.

As the Brighton and Hove Labour Group, we passed City Plan Part Two whilst in administration. This provides a blueprint for sustainable development in the city for the next decade.

The City Plan supports the provision of low-cost, well-designed homes, local jobs, welcoming public places, enhanced green spaces and transport, health, cultural and educational facilities. It’s focused on ensuring communities reap the benefits from well-designed development, and that the progressive priorities residents voted for are delivered on. From stronger policies on renewable energy and energy efficient homes, to minimum space standards, to flexible retail policies that protect the high street, we were able to gain support for a planning framework that puts the needs of local residents first.

Unfortunately, the reforms that government has announced go in the exact opposite direction and threaten the future of affordable housing. The Government’s plans include scrapping section 106 agreements under which developers deliver affordable homes in exchange for permission to build, scrapping the community infrastructure levy that requires developers to contribute to local infrastructure and amenities, and watering down local councils’ influence over planning.

We’re proud of the City Plan we passed, but we wish we could have gone even further; on affordable housing, on reclaiming land-banked sites, and protecting green spaces. The Government’s rigid National Planning Policy Framework prevented us from doing so – so we invited the other political parties to join us in lobbying them for greater flexibility for local councils to protect and improve the areas they represent. The Green councillors did but the Conservatives chose not to join us. Perhaps the new government announcement explains why.

The Government appears to want to take planning policy out of local authority hands and implement a one-size-fits-all approach that benefits developers at the expense of local residents.

The Government’s plans are tantamount to a “developers charter” that will side-line communities in decisions about their own areas and deny vital funding for building schools, GP surgeries and community infrastructure.

We need to work together to get a planning system that truly allows local people to have their voices heard. I’ll once again invite the Brighton and Hove Conservative Group to join me in lobbying this government for a fairer planning system, I hope this time they will.

Not only do we need the Government to rethink its plans for the planning system, we need it to step up and follow our city’s lead on tackling the climate crisis.

I’m pleased to see that air quality has improved in Brighton and Hove over the past seven years. There are still roads where pollution levels are a real concern, but we are moving in the right direction.

I’m proud that the project Labour started, to install 207 on-street electric vehicle charging points is nearing completion. 160 are already available for use and more than 40 more are being installed in the coming weeks.

The work has been funded thanks to a successful £300,000 bid to the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, under the watch of former Labour councillor and chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, Gill Mitchell, and supplemented with a further £100,000 investment from Electric Blue who were brought in to install and manage the charging points. We hope this will make electric vehicles more attractive and convenient for local residents. We committed to becoming a carbon neutral city by 2030 and these charging points will help us reach that goal.

Another step we took towards carbon neutrality in administration was setting up the city’s first ever climate assembly. The assembly has been delayed by Covid-19, but now a randomly chosen selection of 10,600 residents in are receiving an invitation to take part.

We can all see from the changing weather patterns that the climate crisis is happening. We need to move quickly but we need everyone to sign up to the actions needed.