PART 2

Matt Vickers and the property developers: shutting the stable door

Matt Vickers MP
Photo from creative commons

More on Matt Vickers and the Planning Inspectorate. You can read Part 1 here

Matt Vickers, MP for Stockton South, means business apparently. The planning inspectorate’s approval of a scheme for 300 houses in Yarm is ‘a disgrace,’ and he is determined to do something about it. It may be that our article first published on 4 January 2022, spurred him on but we cannot be certain.

While our article, indicating that he was effectively shutting the door after the horse had bolted, was published at midday, in the early evening he put out a statement on his Facebook page which simply restated what he had already published on 18 December 2021.

This new statement, published in full below, unfortunately failed to answer any of the questions we had put to him in the email we sent him on 3 January:

You will find below the, as yet unanswered, questions we put to Mr Vickers on 3 January:

There are four things to note here:

1. If the planning system is deeply unfair, it is the work of the Conservative government. 

2. As with his post on 18 December, he gives no indication of what he plans to say to ‘the Minister’. 

3.   He does not state if he intends to try to get the decision reversed. 

4. He makes no mention of judicial review, which is the only means now available by which this might be achieved, even though we’d specifically asked him about it.

Equally, we must call into question Mr Vickers’ timing.  Both  the Northern Echo and  the Gazette reported, on 25 August 2021, that Theakston Estates were going to lodge an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.  This was the point at which Mr Vickers might usefully have intervened, by appealing to Michael Gove MP – Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – to hear the appeal himself instead of allowing it to be led by a Planning Inspector.  Of course, Members of Parliament are on holiday in August, so that was not conducive to this. 

A good day for Vickers to have had a quiet word with Gove, on the other hand, would have been 24 September 2021, when he visited his constituency:

But he seemed to have had other things on his mind that day and if he mentioned it to Gove, he failed to pass on details of that conversation to his constituents.  Either way he was of course, within days of this, busy dealing with the pressing issue of lobbying the House of Commons canteen to put Teesside Parmos onto their menu:

So, now that a decision has been made by the planning inspectorate, the only available recourse for members of the public is Judicial Review; something which must be instigated by Stockton-On-Tees Borough Council, the responsible planning authority, not by Mr Vickers personally.

As for the Council’s Local Plan taking too long to make, the 2019 parliamentary research briefing that we referred to in our earlier article states that one of the issues around Local Plans is that they have, until now, taken an inordinately long to time to produce.  And with regard to its being ‘not fit for purpose’ – Mr Vickers has not cleared that one up yet either.

So, within the space of three weeks, Mr Vickers has made the same statement about Theakston Estates’ appeal twice, but apparently done nothing.  We have now written to him to ask if he intends to publish a statement about the outcome of his meeting with the Minister for the benefit of his constituents.

Also, we could not help but notice that on 16 December 2021 he posted the following on his Facebook page:

It seems that for the hanging basketeers of the Levelling Up Fund, the plan is that you give out the cash first and think about how you’re going to spend it afterwards. We wonder if £20million might stretch far enough to cover the cost of a couple of schools, a GP surgery and a bypass?

Finally, for those residents of Yarm who think it is some consolation that you can at least now get a Parmo in the House of Commons canteen, actually you can’t. The Parmo lasted for only a short time before being abandoned by the canteen’s powers that be.

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