Why are hypocritical Eastleigh Tories keeping planning minister Boles away from campaign?

Local Liberal Democrats will today accuse the Conservatives of “gagging” their planning minister Nick Boles – and invite him to say who speaks for development policy in their party.

Eastleigh Borough Council leader Keith House will challenge Boles to say whether he backs the responsible development plans extolled by the minister and being put into practice locally – or the ill-informed scaremongering of the Tory by-election candidate.

He will say:

“The Conservative Planning Minister has called for building on open land and attacked ‘hysterical scaremongering of latter-day Luddites’ who oppose it – is that why the Tories are running scared of him coming to Eastleigh?

“They have to answer a simple question – who speaks for the Tories on planning? If it’s their own planning minister, why won’t he come to Eastleigh to see the Liberal Democrats putting his instructions into action? Does he back Maria Hutchings or himself?

“The Liberal Democrats have a record of delivering responsible for development in Eastleigh. The Conservatives only have a record of irresponsible scaremongering.”

The by-election campaign is now in its third week and countless Conservative ministers have been shipped in to Eastleigh – but Nick Boles has been conspicuous by his absence.

Yesterday local Tory leader Godfrey Olsen accused Liberal Democrats of ‘hypocrisy’ for backing plans for 1,400 homes in Boorley Green [Daily Echo, 18/2/13] – ironic given the discrepancies between his candidate’s position and that of his minister.

In a speech last month to the Policy Exchange think-tank, Boles said:

  • “As planning minister it is my job to persuade local authorities to make more land available so that more homes can be built”
  • “We have to accept that we are going to have to build on previously undeveloped land. And to resolve that we will have to make these decisions locally”
  • “A few councils are looking for ways to evade their responsibilities – or slough them off onto their neighbours because the politics of house-building is just too difficult. Well that is not acceptable”
  • “I will not defend, and the government will not support, those local councils who abdicate their responsibility to meet their fair share of our common housing needs”

In a speech last year to the Tory Reform Group, Boles said:

  • “It is essential that we press on with our planning reforms and do not allow the hysterical scaremongering of latter-day Luddites to strangle developments”

Keith House will add:

“Nick Boles is being admirably clear about his intentions and no doubt supports our plans to build 1,400 homes in Boorley Green, protecting swathes of the Eastleigh constituency’s green spaces from the threat of Tory in-filling.

“It is a shame he is being gagged by local Tories. Boles should come down to Eastleigh and tell his candidate to stop being so irresponsible.”

Boles and his boss Eric Pickles have already shown how they place developing on green spaces locally ahead of Conservative candidate posturing, by approving the building of 2,000 homes on Barton Farm in nearby Winchester.

That decision, in October 2012, came despite the best efforts of local Conservative MP Steve Brine, who made saving Barton Farm from development one of his key campaign pledges pre-2010.

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