The East of England development plan could be scrapped following allegations that two ministers closely connected to the project breached Government planning laws.
Representing residents in his Hertford & Stortford constituency, Tory MP Mark Prisk alleged in the House of Commons today that Bill Rammell, Minister for Higher Education, met the Housing Minister Yvette Cooper MP, on 13 July 2006, despite planning regulations precluding meetings at that time.
Prisk has accused Cooper and Rammell of colluding to reverse a decision to reduce the number of homes proposed for development within Prisk’s constituency, just north of Harlow.
In June 2006, Government Inspector reduced the number of proposed homes in the area by at least 10,000. Rammell opposed the decision, having campaigned for such development for the last two years.
Government rules state that any meetings by interested parties would ‘undermine the examination process and be prejudicial to other participants.’ According to Prisk, Cooper and Rammell ignored these rules and the Government announced a second U-turn on December 19.
If Prisk’s allegations are proved correct, the clandestine meeting could make the entire East of England regional plan liable to legal challenge.
Prisk said: ‘Ministers have played fast and loose with planning laws. I shall be complaining to the authorities and seeking an urgent debate with the Housing Minister. Both Ministers must be called to account not least because their actions undermine the credibility of the whole regional planning process.’