Conservative planning petition criticised as deflection tactic by Mid Beds MP candidate

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Image: Ceri Breeze/Shutterstock

A Conservative petition to protect Mid Bedfordshire’s Green Belt has been criticised as an attempt to “deflect from the appalling record of their shameful Government”.

Festus Akinbusoye, the Conservative candidate for the Mid Bedfordshire by-election, has launched the petition on the back of Rishi Sunak’s decision to remove top-down housebuilding targets from Westminster.

The petition calls on independent-led Central Bedfordshire Council to back the Government’s plans and put in place a ‘green belt lock’ on new developments until the services to go with them are in place and the community agrees they can proceed.

“As the only candidate from one of the main parties to live in Mid Bedfordshire, I understand the need to protect our green belt and believe local people must have a say in the future of housebuilding,” said Conservative candidate Festus Akinbusoye.

“That is why I launched this petition – to stop uncontrolled development into our precious countryside and to make sure any new developments have local support and the appropriate services to go with them.”

But the petition has been criticised by the Liberal Democrats who say the Conservative government is to blame for the issues with the planning system and lack of infrastructure.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said: “This is rank hypocrisy from Nadine Dorries’s chosen candidate.

“The Conservative government continues to speak out of both sides of its mouth – claiming they’re going to scrap top-down housing targets whilst refusing every opportunity to do so.

“At every opportunity, the Conservatives continue to perpetuate a top-down developer-led planning system and reject the Lib Dems’ plan for a community-led planning system. The Conservative’s top-down targets do not deliver the truly affordable homes that people need, but they do destroy the Greenbelt.

“It’s clear that all they’re doing is trying to deflect from the appalling record of their shameful Government.”

Meanwhile, Alistair Strathern, Labour’s candidate for Mid Beds, seems to support the ideas behind the petition while also claiming the issues are the fault of the Conservative government.

“I speak to people across Mid Beds every day who are struggling with the chronic lack of vital local infrastructure like GP surgeries, public transport, shops and banks,” he said.

“It’s clear the current planning system isn’t working for our towns and villages. That’s why I would support Labour’s plan to put local consent back at the heart of house building. We need a plan-led approach with local people agreeing on what homes are needed and what sites are most suitable, as well as the crucial local infrastructure needed to support them.

“It’s quite astonishing that the Conservatives are doing a petition on this now. They had control of the council until May this year and have been in government for 13 years. This situation has developed on their watch.

“If Festus really wants to help the people of Mid Beds, he should speak to his “great friend” Nadine Dorries and ask her to step aside so we can have the by-election we so desperately need.”

Mr Akinbusoye, however, says his petition will do exactly what the people of Mid Beds want and need.

“Labour and the Lib Dems will concrete over our green belt and reinstate top-down housebuilding targets from Westminster – forcing councils to build huge numbers of houses that local communities and services cannot cope with.

“I know local people don’t want that and am calling on Central Bedfordshire Council to work with me to save our green belt from being bulldozed.

“By working together, we can protect our precious green belt now, and for future generations.”

Alongside the petition, which is being delivered to Mid Beds homes in August, a survey will ask local people their views about housebuilding and local services in Mid Bedfordshire.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said: “This is rank hypocrisy from Nadine Dorries’s chosen candidate.

“The Conservative government continues to speak out of both sides of its mouth – claiming they’re going to scrap top-down housing targets whilst refusing every opportunity to do so.

“At every opportunity, the Conservatives continue to perpetuate a top-down developer-led planning system and reject the Lib Dems’ plan for a community-led planning system. The Conservative’s top-down targets do not deliver the truly affordable homes that people need, but they do destroy the Greenbelt.

“It’s clear that all they’re doing is trying to deflect from the appalling record of their shameful Government.”