October 18th, 2022.

Lewes District Co-Operative Alliance release:

Lewes Conservative MP, Maria Caulfield, has been told to focus on getting her government to fix the planning process rather than misrepresenting the facts on housing developments in the Lewes District. Last week, Ms Caulfield told a House of Commons Committee that “Green and Lib Dem Lewes District Council had let its Local Plan go out of date”.

This is the latest in a series of attempts by the MP to deflect local anger about housing numbers and planning towards local councils. The truth is that local authorities across the country are working at breakneck speed to put new Local Plans in place and are working to a set of rules and timetable laid out by the government. Lewes District’s Local Plan, along with many others across Sussex and more widely, went out of date because of government rule changes not because of inaction by the local authority.

Councillor James MacCleary, Lib Dem, (pictured), Leader of Lewes District Council said: “It has become exhausting but predictable to see the Lewes Conservative MP standing up and reciting misleading nonsense like this about local issues like housing and planning.

“We have tried so hard to engage Maria Caulfield in a positive dialogue on the new Local Plan, but she has instead chosen time and again to try and turn it into a political game. We are choosing not to play that game because we are talking about the future of our communities here.

“It is essential that council officers leave no stone unturned in putting together our new plan as Maria Caulfield’s government has told us that we must now build over 700 houses a year! The only way we can push back against these sky high targets is to produce a thorough and rigorous new Plan that makes the case for a much lower target.

“We will not be rushed into producing a half-baked plan because the Tories want to draw attention away from what’s happening in Westminster. We will continue to involve Ms Caulfield in the process, as we have throughout, and hope that she will engage more positively and constructively in future.”

Councillor Zoe Nicholson, Green, Deputy Leader of Lewes District Council said: “We didn’t want to start the expensive process of putting a new one in place, we are being forced to by a broken planning system, that every Minister has said needs to change. However we have spent over £250,000 doing the job properly so that the Government’s Planning Inspector can’t say we haven’t followed their rules.

“We would have had to use a time machine to make it possible to put a new Plan in place in time, perhaps our MP can work some magic in that direction instead of telling half truths.

“Ms Caulfield has been in government, her party is in government, what has she done to mend our broken planning system that puts local people and local councils through the misery and expense of putting new Local Plans in place every 5 years.
What has she done to change this broken system?

“Residents have been in touch and I have had to correct her statements, I would not be surprised if some local people decide to complain to Parliamentary Standards Commissioner for Ms Caulfield’s clear misrepresentation of the truth”
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