Opinion: If Jenrick wants it, Jenrick gets it

Let’s get one thing quite clear. I do not want a giant Brexit lorry park being built anywhere near me. I don’t want lorries thundering past my house 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

But it seems there is a good chance that might happen with Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester both earmarked for two of those sites. And why is it likely to happen? Well, with Britain less than four months away from its final split with the European Union, UK Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has given himself sweeping ‘Henry 8th’ powers to build lorry truck parks across our green and pleasant land to avoid queues and chaos at ports in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

According to Bloomberg News, the government has already started constructing holding facilities for lorries in Kent, which will be used to park goods vehicles which don’t have the correct paperwork to enter the EU. The lorry holding sites are seen as a key part of Britain’s plans to avoid border delays from January 1, when full customs controls will be imposed on good And what’s more, should the government decide to build one near you, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, nothing at all.

You can scream, shout, protest all you want and it will come to nothing. Those new powers Jenrick has given himself mean he doesn’t need to get the approval of council planners or councillors under the terms of to the ‘statutory instrument’ that was laid before Parliament and he doesn’t have to consult with anyone living near the site. If Jenrick wants it, Jenrick gets it, it’s as simple as that.

And to be frank with you, that doesn’t fill me with a great deal of confidence. After all, it’s the very same Robert Jenrick who granted planning permission for a GBP1bn property scheme two weeks before the developer donated GBP12,000 to the Conservative party. As The Guardian reported, Jenrick and his housing department initially backed a plan by the billionaire media tycoon Richard Desmond to construct 1,524 apartments on a site in the Isle of the Dogs, east London.

Jenrick knew that Desmond had only 24 hours to have the development approved before new council community charges were imposed that would have cost him about GBP45m. Desmond said the charge would have made the whole scheme unviable and put the accompanying social housing at risk. Jenrick later accepted that his approval of Desmond’s project on the old Westferry Road printworks in January was unlawful.

The question I would ask myself is would I trust Jenrick to make a planning decision on my behalf. The answer is a resounding no. And don’t forget, he has given himself the power to do more or less as he likes with these Brexit lorry parks.

Is this what ‘taking back control’ looks like? I may be a bit slow on the uptake sometimes but I didn’t think taking back control meant handing it over to government ministers without any public scrutiny. On a completely different topic, I was pleased to see the story by Guardian chief reporter Stephen Topping on the vexed subject of people caught in the leasehold trap.

It appears that four of the country’s biggest housebuilders are being challenged over the way ground rents have been charged to leaseholders – an issue which has affected new residents at Winnington Village. The problem arises when someone buys a house but doesn’t own the land it sits on. The land is still owned by the freeholder who will often charge rent for the land, a so-called ground rent.

Now the Competition and Markets Authority has written to Barratt Developments, Countryside Properties, Persimmon Homes and Taylor Wimpey after uncovering ‘troubling evidence of potentially unfair terms’. The regulator says buyers may have been misled by developers and trapped into leaseholds with expensive ground rents that double every decade, which can have the effect of making the properties virtually unsellable. According to the report in the Guardian, it is an issue that Mike Amesbury, Labour MP for Weaver Vale, has campaigned on since his election in 2017 following concerns that residents at Winnington Village had been affected.

Mr Amesbury said: “This is welcome news and not before time. “This has been one of the biggest issues I’ve been contacted about by my constituents, and some of the stories I’ve heard when meeting with residents genuinely beggar belief. “The fight for leaseholders’ justice has been a long one and it’s certainly not over yet, but this feels like a significant step forward.”

Let’s hope it is as significant as Mr Amesbury hopes.

The leasehold scandal is one that should have been rectified years ago.

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