Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has found himself at the centre of a planning row involving his constituents and his mother.
Lady Rees-Mogg has submitted a planning application to Bath & North East Somerset Council to build an estate of 19 new houses on family land on a greenfield site in her home village of Hinton Blewett in the Chew Valley.
The scheme (13/05272/OUT) has upset local residents who say that greenfield sites should be preserved and that the development is too large for their small village and will spoil their view, as well as affecting the price of their homes.
They are worried about the village’s poor access and say the village doesn’t have the amenities to cope with an influx of 40-plus more residents.
One former resident, chartered town planner Joanna Burgess, whose parents still live there, commented that it would be convenient for B&NES Council to grant permission for the development as it would help meet its housing targets, but for the residents, the application represented a “money-making exercise” by the landowner at the expense of others, and a “loss of faith” in her and her son as their MP.
And Todd Foreman, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset, accused Mr Rees-Mogg of hypocrisy and putting his family’s financial interests ahead of his constituents.
Mr Foreman said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg has taken positions on other planning applications in the past and he has said that development should generally take place on brownfield sites. Why isn’t he speaking out now on behalf of residents on Hinton Blewett?
“We need more homes in North East Somerset, but we should be building them on brownfield sites unless the circumstances are exceptional. I share the concerns of Hinton Blewett residents that the Rees-Mogg family plans to build on greenfield sites are wrong for the village.
“By putting in this application now, Lady Rees-Mogg is trying to exploit the ongoing failure of the Liberal-Democrat controlled council to agree a core development strategy. In the meantime, Jacob should put the interests of his constituents ahead of his own family’s financial interests and take a position on the proposed development on Rees-Mogg family land.
“By not taking a position on a controversial development when his own family’s financial interests are at stake, Jacob Rees-Mogg is being deeply hypocritical.”
Mr Rees-Mogg told The Week In: “I will make exactly the same representations as I would for any other constituent who contacts me on a planning issue.
“As an MP I have no authority over planning so I can only pass on people’s views to the council, but it’s not my decision, and I have made it clear to people who have been in touch with me from Hinton Blewett that I am happy to do so for them as well.
“It is not Green Belt land. When Green Belt land is under discussion, then I feel able to make direct representations to ministers to get them to call in applications as has happened with a number of Green Belt applications that have been made.
“I think my position is pretty uniform wherever the planning is taking place.”