Rt Hon Lord Lilley



    Monday December 21st 2009



    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has learned that the government is threatening to cut funds to Luton if the Borough Council does not support a massive housing project to the east of the town, in Hertfordshire.

    Last month, the council passed a motion saying it was ‘strongly opposed’ to the scheme, even though it had previously supported it.

    Peter Lilley said: “The plan to build more than 5,000 homes on beautiful Green Belt land in North Herts infuriated local people and there was much relief when the council did a u-turn and abandoned it.

    “Now, the boss of the Government Office for the East of England (GO-East) has written to the leader of the council saying, in effect, that if the decision is not reversed there will be financial consequences.

    “It is quite outrageous for government to dictate to a local authority how it deals with its own planning issues.

    “Even worse, the clear message is that if Luton does not toe the line and agree with GO-East, government funding for Luton will be withheld.

    “This is tantamount to blackmail. What sort of government tries to micro-manage every planning decision? This shows a complete disregard for local democracy and local accountability.

    “I shall be raising this in Parliament at the first opportunity to demand an explanation of this bullying. Every council in the country should take note — disagreeing with this government can potentially be very bad news for their financial health and the interests of their residents.”

    **  The letter from GO-East to Luton Borough Council is attached



    Hazel Simmons


    cc Kevin Crompton, Chief Executive

    Paul Pugh

    Regional Director


    Shaftesbury Road


    CB2 8DF

    Tel: 01223 372536

    GTN: 38412502

    Fax: 01223372867

    Email: paul.pugh@goeast.gsi.gov.uk

    Website: http://www.goeast.gov.uk

    27 November 2009


    Borough Council Meeting on 3 November


    I understand that at your Council meeting on 3 November the Council withdrew its support for any proposal to create an urban extension to the east of Luton.

    The minutes from that meeting note that there was no substantive discussion of the issue, other than reference to the number of objections received to a proposed East of Luton option included in the recent Joint Committee Core Strategy consultation. A proposal to omit the East of Luton option was considered atthe Joint Committee meeting on 23 October and was heavily defeated.

    The Joint Committee is the planning authority for Luton and South Bedfordshire for all forward planning purposes. Your Council is an equal partner in that arrangement which GO-East has consistently supported over the last five years. In addition a considerable amount of Growth Area Funding has been invested in your area to support the joint working and assist in delivering growth and regeneration. Most recently we have intervened to bring forward the construction of Junction 11A on the M1 and the A5/M1 Link to enable you to secure an early start on the northern urban extension areas.

    I am concerned therefore about the implications of the Council’s decision for achieving a sound Core Strategy and, indeed, for the future of the present joint working arrangements. 

    I am pleased that our respective officers have agreed an approach to the Core Strategy that focuses on land supply in the first ten years with a further review of Core Strategy to finalise options in the final 5 years. This technical fix is, of course, only half of the solution. It will require Luton Members to be crystal clear about the implications of their decisions on the future of the Joint Committee. The joint working arrangements have brought significant benefits to the communities in Luton and the wider sub-region and given confidence to Central Government to invest in Luton. As we enter a period of significant constraint in Public Sector spending, Luton will need to do all it can to maintain that confidence. This episode has shaken it considerably.

    Central Bedfordshire representatives have requested a meeting to discuss the next steps. Before I meet them, it would be helpful to understand fully the reasons behind Luton Council’s decision; and whether you consider that your representatives on the Joint Committee are bound by it.

    I would appreciate an early reply.

    Paul Pugh

    Regional Director

     Further information from John Allen