Louie French spoke in the Second Reading Debate of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill where he called for places like Bexley not to be forgotten in levelling up missions and to ensure residents in Old Bexley and Sidcup have a greater say in the future of their areas and developments.
You can view the full text of Louie’s speech below:
"I welcome parts of this Bill, which has the great potential to improve the planning system, but I do have some concerns that I hope the Secretary of State and Ministers will address either today or during its passage.
First, I will quickly rattle through the positives of the Bill: increased powers for councils to bring vacant units back into use and greater powers to encourage positive regeneration across the country; streamlining and extending the temporary regime for outdoor seating to promote the café culture that has been beneficial to local businesses and communities across Bexley and the country; extending enforcement powers and doubling fees for retrospective planning so that local councils can crack down on dodgy developers and better protect their neighbours; reform of the infrastructure levy so that developers pay more of their profits to support community infrastructure required to support new homes and to allow councils to differ the rates of the levy for different areas that do not want more development; and the strengthening of local plans so that local residents have a greater say in the future of their areas and development can be targeted to use old brownfield sites, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), and to protect the environment.
The latter is one of the major issues that councils in Greater London have faced with the Mayor of London’s London plan, alongside the dramatic increase in housing targets and policies that are simply not appropriate for Greater London areas such as Bexley. Residents across Old Bexley and Sidcup regularly tell me that they do not want any more flats, and I hope that the Bill will help local people to have a greater say over their future. I would therefore appreciate it if the Secretary of State clarified how he sees the relationship between the London plan and future local plans changing, given the existing hierarchy of planning policy. In places such as Bexley and Bromley, we currently have a democratic deficit whereby local people did not vote for a Labour Mayor of London but are still stuck with his policies. Levelling up the country must not forget areas in the south-east such as Bexley, which does not have the infrastructure of inner London but is seeing its population dramatically increase and never gets its fair share of funding, whether grant funding or health spending per head. The Government would be well advised to carefully review how taxpayers’ money from central Government is allocated in London—how much of it is wasted and swallowed up by City Hall—when that money could be sent directly to local councils that can target its use better, as we have seen with business grants during the pandemic.
Here lies one of my main concerns: I hope that Ministers will put appropriate protections in place to stop London’s problems being replicated across the country. For every Ben Houchen and Andy Street, there is a Sadiq Khan—a Sadiq Khan who has destroyed borough-based policing and overseen record levels of crime; a Sadiq Khan who has nearly bankrupted TfL and overseen a record number of strikes; and a Sadiq Khan who has increased his share of council tax by 8.8% this year and plans to introduce a stealth tax of around £4,500 a year on drivers in Greater London during a cost of living crisis. Not even the champagne socialists can afford this Bill. Although levelling up this country is an admirable and key Government policy, I implore the Secretary of State and Ministers to use their power to ensure that devolution does not equal more civil servants, more local taxes, more nanny state and more Sadiq Khans."