There has been a lot of confusion among Conservatives about Stroud District Council’s decision to block an Investment Zone in the District. The MP and the County Council Leader both called it “madness”, and Ian Mean’s article in Stroud Times described it as “politics”.
Far from playing politics, Stroud’s councillors have performed their role as elected members. They looked at the issue and decided what is best for the District and the people who live here.
Residents are already very unhappy about how impotent the Planning Committee is because so much local decision-making has been overruled by national planning rules which tie the hands of our elected councillors. So many of the emails that Councillors receive from residents are from people trying to stop inappropriate construction. People want to have more say in the planning process so that we get high-quality, sustainable development. Accepting an Investment Zone in Stroud would have done the complete opposite, and created a planning free-for-all.
The Investment Zone policy was rushed through by Liz Truss with very little detail. Rishi Sunak’s government is now “reviewing” the policy, in part because of environmental and cost concerns. Is that “madness” too?
The idea that this was only an expression of interest and not binding on Stroud is, in my opinion, wrong. Based on the very limited information that the government produced, this “expression of interest” stage was the only time that Stroud District Council had any control over the outcome.
Given that Investment Zones would be implemented by an Act of Parliament, the big policy decisions would be made by Conservative MPs in Parliament rather than by Stroud’s elected Councillors. I’d be very happy to be proven wrong, but I won’t hold my breath.
Instead of picking a fight on Investment Zones, Stroud’s MP should be chasing after the Government for the £15 million Levelling Up Fund money that Stroud District Council worked so hard to bid for and that she supported.
Green Party parliamentary candidate for Stroud