Lib Dems can win elections said Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood
CONTROVERSIAL changes to the planning laws could cause more trouble than they are worth, an MP has warned.
Cheltenham's MP Martin Horwood spoke out over proposals which would allow homeowners to build extensions of up to 25ft or add conservatories without needing planning permission.
He voiced his fears after activists at the Lib Dem conference in Brighton called for the plans to be ditched.
Delegates voted almost unanimously to oppose the coalition proposals. The measures have led to renewed fears over the threat to the greenbelt.
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Councils across the country are concerned that the relaxation of the rules, which could be in place by next year, may lead to ugly developments, with councillors and officers spending hours trying to resolve disputes between neighbours.
The approved motion said the proposals go "against the spirit" of the Localism Act 2011, which gave councils more control over planning policies.
Mr Horwood said: "Delegates have sent a clear message that they would like Lib Dem MPs to question these proposals and I am happy to do that. It isn't very clear that the economic benefits of conservatories and extensions are going to be so great as to justify the hassle and disputes these measures might cause."
He also said tough times will not stop Liberal Democrats from winning elections in Cheltenham.
And he praised party leader Nick Clegg for his stance.
"We in Cheltenham know we can win elections, even in tough political times," said Mr Horwood.
"Nick knows we have to have confidence in government.
"We are achieving a lot and we have to put that message across."
Mr Horwood also admitted he was 'wary' of a suggestion by the party leadership to strip universal benefits such as free bus passes and winter fuel payments from well-off pensioners.
He raised concerns over the potential for loopholes which would see those in need losing out, and said safeguards would be needed.
"Universal benefits are quite a good principle because it means no one fall through the net who really needs it," he said.
One of Mr Clegg's closet aides David Laws has admitted he was sceptical about the idea because it would not raise much money.
Mr Clegg sparked confusion by indicating that he wanted to consider scrapping the handouts as part of the coalition's final spending review – even though it would breach the power-sharing agreement with the Tories.