Boris Johnson has been urged to rethink planning reforms in the wake of the Chesham & Amersham by-election defeat, which saw the Liberal Democrats overturn a 16,000 majority in a Tory stronghold.
Writing in the Telegraph yesterday Conservative co-chairman Amanda Milling said voters’ concerns were “loud and clear” following the defeat.
She said voters were particularly concerned about HS2 and planning reforms, later describing the defeat as a “warning shot”, suggesting there will be fears that the party is not speaking to people in the South.
“Over the coming weeks and months we will take stock of what happened in Chesham and Amersham and look at how we can regain the trust of voters,” she added.
Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Green won 56.7 per cent of the vote in the Buckinghamshire constituency, winning the by-election by some margin.
Tory candidate Peter Fleet came in second with 35.5 per cent of the vote, followed by Green candidate Carolyne Culver Green (3.9%) and then Labour’s Natasa Pantelic (1.6%).
Senior Conservative party ministers have warned Johnson he risked alienating southern Tory voters if he did not soften new planning rules, which would reduce the power of local residents to fight planning applications in areas designed for growth.
A minister told The Times: “We need to tread carefully on planning. We say that communities will be involved but then they’re not.
“If you’re going to say that they will have a voice then that voice has to count. The party knows we need to build more homes in this country. It’s about how you take forward that shared vision with your communities.”
Another added: “We’ve been so focused on levelling up the north that we ignored people in the south who felt left behind.
“The heartlands aren’t being given the attention they need and the best way to show them we’re listening is to abandon the planning bill.”