A MOVE to “strip away” local planning powers from councils in a major shake-up by the Government is being opposed by Test Valley community leaders.

Under proposed Government plans, land across England would be divided into three categories – growth, renewal or protection.

The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, dubbed the planning reform as a necessary “once in a generation” change to sweep away outdated rules to provide much-needed homes.

He insisted earlier this year: “Planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process.”

But at a full council meeting on Wednesday, Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) members backed a cross-party motion to urge the Government to rethink its planning strategy.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Celia Dowden, who tabled the motion, said: "The Government's planning proposals would disempower local authorities like Test Valley and allow developers to run roughshod over local communities' wishes.

"People living in Test Valley are the people best placed to make the planning decisions and shape our communities for the better, but the Government's planning reforms will strip away local people's ability to shape those decisions and is a developer's charter.

"We must object to these proposals which do nothing to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing, undermine our climate commitments, and put our local heritage at risk."

Andover Advertiser: Cllr Celia DowdenCllr Celia Dowden

Conservative Cllr Phil North, who seconded the motion, said: "It's really important we send a clear cross-party message to central Government that keeping local control of our planning system is crucial for our communities here in Test Valley."

He stressed the council did not want to prevent houses being built in the borough, stating the local authority has a "proud record of delivering hundreds of new homes".

However, he worries the local authority could be expected to deliver "another 200 plus homes through a new Government algorithm every year".

Andover Advertiser: Cllr Phil NorthCllr Phil North

One councillor who refused to support the cross-party plea for Government to change its mind was Andover Independents Cllr Christopher Ecclestone.

He said: "Unfortunately after decades and decades of all the development being largely dumped on Andover and a little bit dumped on Romsey, I feel that it would be negative to spread the development around.

"I would support this motion if, for instance, TVBC decided that they were going to develop a decent new town or village at places like Weyhill, but that's not going to happen and so I can't support this motion."

Andover Advertiser: Cllr Christopher Ecclestone Cllr Christopher Ecclestone