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David Johnston MP - December 2022

on Fri, 09/12/2022 - 2:57pm

The run up to Christmas in Parliament has involved lots of debate about the Levelling Up Bill and changes to the planning system. As Michael Gove’s PPS at the Department for Levelling Up, the rules mean I've not been able to comment about this publicly, but the Bill will do many important things, like end the requirement for councils to demonstrate a ‘5-year land supply’ if they have an up-to-date local plan. There was a lot of debate about housing targets set by central government. Targets have their place, but the way in which they have operated has too often forced homes into areas where local people feel they are not needed.

Under the changes, while there will still be central calculations for housing numbers, they will be advisory, and local authorities will determine how many homes can be built, taking into account what should be protected in that area, from the Green Belt to heritage assets.

Areas that have ‘overdelivered’ on their housing numbers, which has often been the case with South Oxfordshire and the Vale, will be able to make the case to lower the number they need to plan for.

The Government will also consult on allowing councils to refuse applications from developers who have built too slowly; end the duty that lets cities impose their housing needs on surrounding areas; and will look at further measures to incentivise brownfield land being built on over greenfield land. These are all things that are very welcome for this area.

As you may have seen I am supporting the new Cornermen initiative down at South Moreton Boxing Club to help tackle mental health problems among men. Too often men bottle up their feelings instead of talking about them and it's part of the reason they have a higher suicide rate than women. Steve and John are getting men down to the club to try boxing and talking to them while they do it, referring them to services as appropriate. They'll even pick them up. It's a very worthwhile cause and I was pleased to get the BBC down to cover it, filming me throw some punches myself!

Some other things in brief. I've been campaigning on behalf of the AEAT Pensioners locally and have secured a breakthrough for them - watch this space! I'm working to support access to cash in Wallingford, which has been chosen as 1 of 12 pilot areas for new approaches to access cash. I've brought Sharon Gaffka who campaigns on drink spiking, with 16-year-old Niamh, who came to see to campaign against negative behaviour from boys and men, together to join forces and am pleased Sharon will help Niamh. I've had a series of enjoyable visits to Parliament from schools like Wallingford School, Drayton Community Primary and Aureus School as well as Ukrainian refugees in recent months - do get in touch if you'd like to bring a group down. Have a Merry Christmas!

As ever, if I can help with anything then do contact me via [email protected]