IN CASE you didn’t think planning matters in Thurrock were confusing enough, the government plans to enable villages such as Orsett, Bulphan and West Tilbury to build homes without seeking council planning permission.
The Right to Build initiative aims to provide small numbers of affordable homes in rural areas where high home prices are driving people away.
It is part of David Cameron’s “big society” idea of allowing more decisions to be made locally.
But the Campaign to Protect Rural England says building development should be democratically accountable.
Under the plan, villages would be able to form local housing trusts, and hold a referendum to decide if house building should go ahead. A large majority would be needed.
Housing minister Grant Shapps envisages small developments of fewer than 20 homes.
Mr Shapps told the BBC: “Loads of people in village communities are saying, ‘Our school’s closing, our post offices are under threat, we’re losing our community facilities.’
Our problem is that the young people grow up and find they can’t afford to live in this village anymore.
“We believe that people have a right to stay in their community and if people want to build that community to make it a bit bigger and expand it a bit, within reason, they should have the powers to do that.”
Crucially, local councils which currently decide planning issues would have little say beyond enforcing modern construction standards.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England has criticised the proposals, which could see building in the green belt.
The campaign group said there should be proper planning scrutiny of house building by democratically-elected councillors rather than a simple public ballot.