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A Weapon of Mass Destruction and a Tyranny of Algorithms

Government report on planning highlights Tenterden’s concerns


While hundreds of local councils made submissions to the government’s highly controversial new report ‘The Future of the Planning System in England’, few had a higher profile than Tenterden Town Council.

The newly-published report, which has been suggested led partly to the Conservative Party’s defeat in the Chesham and Amersham by-election, makes no fewer than 23 direct references to the Town Council’s response to the proposals, and 11 to planning committee chairman Cllr John Crawford, who wrote Tenterden’s submission.

The report stated: “There was also considerable hostility towards the proposed [housing] formula. Tenterden Town Council called it ‘a weapon of Mass Destruction of unprecedented scale.”

The report noted the Town Council’s view that “the planning White Paper is proposing a tyranny of algorithm as well as of numbers.”

Other points made by Cllr Crawford in his submission included that the government’s proposals would…..

  • Squeeze out the local community who have local knowledge of their specific parish.
  • Have a negative impact on the countryside, and preferences for local decision-making.
  • Did not make clear that Green Belt land would be protected – “the community needs faith that these protected areas mean protection with no development.”

Following the publication of the proposals, opponents pointed out that they would result in unprecedented high housing targets in the south of England, which would be undeliverable by some local authorities due to lack of available land.  

They added that it would have allowed developers to build hundreds of thousands of poorly-located new homes in the countryside, threatening locally valued green space, and would completely undermine government ambitions for urban regeneration.

Cllr Crawford said: “Since the publication of the report, the government has endeavoured to offer reassurance, suggesting that they will be following the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, with a greater number of builds in the North

'They have also underlined that better use should be made of Brown Field land; new homes should not come at the expense of harming precious green spaces; urban centres are best-served for housebuilding, utilising existing infrastructure; and that building homes around transport hubs would have a beneficial impact on climate change.

“This is all pointing in the right direction, that house building must involve the local community, and emphasises the need for Neighbourhood Plans – Tenterden’s own Neighbourhood Plan has just been put out for public consultation.

“But, as always the proof is in the pudding. We will have to wait to see what the actual revised Parliamentary bill says.”