THE Conservative government’s recent call to bin planning controls and simply “Build” ignores widespread agreement that we need to Build Back Better.

According to Boris, “newt counting delays in our system are a massive drag on the productivity and prosperity of this country.”

He’s wrong. The Government’s own 2018 Letwin Review identified the dependency on too few house builders delivering the same kind of homes as the key causes of delay, and advocated affording councils stronger powers to control development.

Unfortunately, government instead removed planning controls on converting buildings into homes – with the result that new flats are being rented to families with no windows in them, as exposed by the BBC’s Panorama.

Boris promised a green economic recovery. But current council controls over development are often almost non-existent given a mass of rules from Whitehall, especially where outline permission has already been granted.

Bewilderment and distress from residents often follow as they witness new buildings with not a solar panel in sight and only minimum national standards of energy efficiency. Our councillors on the planning committee are often equally frustrated given they know, as confirmed in their local manifesto, we should by now be building in a radically different way.

In contrast, recently confirmed proposals pulled together by the Lib-Dem Somerset West and Taunton Council will see 100 council houses built to the new zero-carbon standard.

A good example of what can be done when not hamstrung by the Conservative government.

It’s about time local communities, through their councils, had more say in the planning system.

Remaining environmental protections now at risk of being swept away, rightly force developers to make provision for endangered species and limit or mitigate loss of habitat.

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This is not just about great-crested newts: natural ponds, many of which have been destroyed, are one of the best carbon sinks nature provides. Bats are also protected providing minimal survival habitat for insects and birds as well, whose rapid rate of decline is alarming.

Along with their plans for massive road building, the Conservative government looks set to disregard our precious local environment.

The folly is all the greater given that good development can actually enhance wildlife and biodiversity.

As Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts said: “If the Government is serious about keeping its manifesto pledge to develop “the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth”, it must step up its ambition.”

When will they catch up?

Lib Dem Taunton Deane Parliamentary Spokesperson & Vice-President of Town & County Planning Association