Yep, thats MP's for you, Jumping on the band wagon, then wondering why the band wagon's wheels fell off...
I am absolutely sure that Andrew Stunell knew what he was saying. He's been around too long to get caught up in a bandwagon. Local MPs will be entirely pragmatic about an issue like this. Andrew Stunell will continue to publicly state that the college should find another way of funding their new building. He will do this whilst knowing full well that legally they have to accept the highest bid, no matter who it comes from, or what the planning regulations are saying about the use of the land.
Therefore he will be able to say he has supported the "no" campaign which (currently) the majority of his Marple constituents seem to want. He will also be able to say (if the sale of the land goes through to a supermarket) that unfortunately the college was following its legal obligations.
I think you are right, Howard, but I am more skeptical. Having spoken in confidence to a member of the CAMSFC Senior Management, I know the College are under a public duty to secure the highest possible sale value, something that doesn't seem to have been the case for government when Mrs Thatcher sold off public utilities. As a government minister with the relevant brief, Andrew Stunell has lots of civil servants available to brief him on this, so ignorance is no excuse.
Also his statements about the Localism Bill he is in charge of introducing were economical with the truth in the extreme, such as the requirement for developers to consult local communities prior to the submission of planning applications; this, on its own, is of no use unless the process of appeal is changed to strengthen the capacity of local communities to successfully resist plans from developers once any plan is past the consultation stage and has become a matter of open contention between a developer and communities. A number of organisations, including CPRE, have long called for appeal powers in the planning system to be rebalanced in favour of communities, because the high % of successful appeals reveals the balance within the existing system. The CPRE analysis indicates that developers get away with this simply by putting in appeal after appeal until the community will to oppose dips - attrition.
For the same reason, the other claim our MP made - shifting the responsibility for drafting strategic plans from Local Authorities to neighbourhoods - will not alter the vulnerability of any such plans to being breached via applications from developers which run counter to them, once the appeals from developers already in possession of the land are underway.
To understand the full extent to which our MP is playing politics with us, we also need to bear in mind the forthcoming planning legislation. Everything I have read about it indicates that planning regulations & safeguards are being relaxed to facilitate development, not tightened up.
I will bow to a lawyer on this, but my own experience tells me that what binds all these threads together is the concept of superior and inferior legislation: which legislation trumps which other bits. Unless Andrew Stunell can tell us that his Localism Bill is going to be superior to planning legislation AND that it is going to be strengthened so as to give communities the opportunity to say No once and for all, rather than having to continually show that there is a demonstrable majority against the development, then he is complicit in the worst that could happen to Marple.
Andrew Stunell leads for the government on these matters and it was the government that chose to defeat two amendments to the Localism Bill that could have made a crucial difference to our prospects. One from Labour put forward a new clause which would have required local planning authorities to adopt retail diversity schemes. Another, from a Liberal Democrat MP was aimed at allowing councils and the local community to protect the diversity and vitality of the local high street. Even so, neither would have been enough so long as the Planning appeal process remains as it is, let alone gets further liberalised, which is what is happening.
As with so much else about this government, all this runs counter to what both parties promised during the General Election - to introduce a community right of appeal in relation to planning applications.