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New Welsh Labour MP criticised for posts about England’s planning system

09 Jul 2024 4 minute read
Torsten Bell campaigning in Swansea

Martin Shipton

Newly elected Welsh Labour MP Torsten Bell has been criticised after writing social media posts about proposed changes to planning policy in England that don’t apply in Wales..

Torsten Bell, the MP for Swansea West, was imposed on the local party by a panel appointed by Labour’s National Executive Committee when Rishi Sunak called the general election unexpectedly.

His predecessor as MP for the seat, Geraint Davies, was suspended following allegations of sexual harassment made against him which remain unresolved and led to a delay in candidate selection. Because of the need to make a quick selection when Mr Sunak announced July 4 as election day, grassroots party members were not given a say in choosing the new candidate.

The Resolution Foundation

Earlier this week Mr Bell, who has just stepped down as chief executive of the Resolution Foundation think tank, posted a thread on X, formerly Twitter. It said: “The case for @RachelReevesMP’s sweeping changes to the planning system announced today…

“ For 15yrs, we’ve been attempting to dig a tunnel under the Thames. No digging has taken place, but £800m has been spent & 9k pages of planning applications drafted. This is double what Norway spent actually building Lærdalstunnelen, the world’s longest road tunnel…

“If we want net zero to happen, and to happen without higher costs, then things are going to have to be built. Things that not everyone loves. And they will also have to be built if we want our firms to be able to invest, grow and pay higher wages

“ Years of not building enough homes means France now has 22% more dwellings than us despite a similar population.”

Solar farms

Mr Bell then took a swipe at Adrian Ramsay, co-leader of the Green Party, saying: ”Oh, and don’t believe anyone who tells you they are serious about net zero while regularly opposing wind or solar farms, or the networks required for the energy generated to get to where people and industry are. So fed up of this nonsense.”

Victoria Winckler, director of the Bevan Foundation think tank, responded to Mr Bell’s posts, stating: “Interesting but planning is devolved and you’re a Welsh MP..”

Mr Bell then posted: “I’m very aware of that – but it should be obvious that the failure in England on, for example, energy infrastructure has affects [sic] that stretch into Wales. Be good to talk properly about this at some point.”

Preoccupied

Plaid Cymru MP Mabon ap Gwynfor said: “I’m afraid these comments show that Torsten Bellis preoccupied with the needs of England rather than the needs of his constituents in Wales. He’s not interested in Wales and doesn’t understand devolution.

“The number of MPs representing Wales went down at last week’s election from 40 to 32 and it;’s essential that those who have been elected concentrate on issues that affect their constituents, not people in London or elsewhere in England.

“On numerous occasions I’ve challenged Welsh Government Ministers about the fact that the planning system in Wales is not serving Welsh needs, but they have completely rejected that view, saying everything is fine.

“Now here we have a newly elected Welsh Labour MP from England saying that the planning system should be changed. it’s a nonsense.”

“The planning system in Wales needs radical reform, focussing on the needs of local communities. Currently the system is there for the benefit of developers.

At present big construction companies are putting forward plans for new housing developments that aren’t based on community needs, but are purely based on their wish to improve the bottom line. Instead planning authorities should pay much more attention to how a new housing development will impact on the health service, education and other social factors.

“I believe it is invidious that while developers can appeal against a planning application being rejected, communities are unable to appeal when permission has been granted for developments they consider to be unsuitable. There should be a wholesale review of the planning system in Wales and Torsten Bell and other Labour MPa representing Welsh constituencies should support that.”


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Steph Owen
Steph Owen
4 days ago

Shame, you would think a parachute MP would have checked his map before landing

Riki
Riki
4 days ago

We are an occupied territory, and will never stop seeing it that way. Not until foreigners are stopped from taking positions that should be given to natives. If you are sons and daughters of immigrants, but born here, then you are from Wales too, but I cannot be forced to accept foreign born politicians.

Brad Steel
Brad Steel
4 days ago
Reply to  Riki

If only Westminster had had that rule, and kept Boris Johnson out.

John Ellis
John Ellis
4 days ago

Maybe he hasn’t quite grasped the difference?

Surely that’s something likely to happen when someone with no real connection to Wales is shoe-horned at the very last minute into a safe Welsh Westminster parliamentary seat.

Last edited 4 days ago by John Ellis
Mandi A
Mandi A
4 days ago

“serious about net zero while regularly opposing wind or solar farms, or the networks required for the energy generated to get to where people and industry are”. The thing is to watch which Parliamentary Groups the new MPs sign up for and watch their Register of Interests and their donors. Interesting that TB immediately comes in on renewables given the monies spent on renewable projects and the potential for Swansea Bay / Celtic Freeport. Resolution is actually a decent think tank that does some useful serious work, lately keen on the economic impact of climate change but principally concerned with… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 days ago

I used to make carpet bags,

would you like one Torsten old boy…

There’s money in them wires…

Just ask Energetics/Last Mile…

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
4 days ago

Thanks Martin for this article, you’ve said everything I would wish to say!

Nia James
Nia James
4 days ago

Torsten Bell, like the so-called ‘Prince of Wales’, will no doubt expect the people of Wales to get behind “the nation” in the Euros this evening. Bell is an imposter par excellence. His book on Britain is merely a policy wish list for England. Cymru receives one mention in the volume. It is interesting to note that he is keen to build new reservoirs (to supply English cities). Looks like we should brace ourselves for another Tryweryn or two.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
4 days ago

There is a far, far deeper malaise here.
Amongst all the beating of chests and wailing a simple fact is being overlooked. The people of Swansea West voted for him.
Face it. Things are not going to change until the people of Wales finally wake, shack of the stupor and see the Labour Party for what it really is – corrupt and jobs for the boys

Rob Pountney
Rob Pountney
4 days ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

His vote share was down a whopping 10% though (41%), add to that the very low turnout and it hardly looks like a huge mandate, 59% of PPL who actually voted in the constituency voted for someone else…

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
4 days ago
Reply to  Rob Pountney

Yes, but he still won!!!
It doesn’t matter if he won by one vote or a zillion, he still won!!

Old Curmudgeon
Old Curmudgeon
4 days ago

It’s good to see that we have another Labour Politician who is so full of his own self interests that he hasn’t got the common sense to tread carefully and settle into his job which is representing the people who voted him in.

CapM
CapM
4 days ago

Therefore, send not to know
For whom the Bell toils,
He toils not for thee.

with apologies to John Donne

Mawkernewek
Mawkernewek
4 days ago

I’ll leave it to others to argue whether he has hit the ground running following his parachute jump. I am not really convinced that spending a lot of money on a new Thames road tunnel should be a real priority for an MP in Wales, and neither that it would be all that great for net zero, actually I thought one of the arguments against it that it would increase air pollution in certain areas as traffic increases near the tunnel portals. It sounds more like he’s deploying buzzwords in an effort to join a train for the ascension of… Read more »

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
4 days ago

He may have landed, but he’s yet to remove his parachute pack.

robin campbell
robin campbell
4 days ago
Reply to  Steve Woods

Bell-end

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