I was out last week in the Camp Road area of Freshwater, chatting to Islanders about what I believe is an inappropriate development there, and it got me thinking that it would be a good time to explain what’s been happening in housing.

We won a major victory late last year, working with the Government to improve planning policy.

Islands, such as the Isle of Wight, can now more easily argue for exceptional circumstances, should councillors decide to do so.

That means in future, two things can happen: We can protect more of our countryside; and we can focus on building for Islanders.

I believe that we should take this opportunity to rule out large-scale, low density greenfield development. They are wrong for the Island. Instead, we can plan for small-scale, greener developments in existing communities, for Islanders. 

Other new rules planners need to pay greater respect to: The character of an area and houses built need to be attractive, so an end to ugly developments. There is also increased protection for agricultural land and more focus on brownfield sites in cities, which should mean less pressure on the countryside.

On the Island too, the Council is using cash made available by this Conservative Government to buy brownfield sites for affordable housing.

Islanders also say to me, ‘people need somewhere to live.’

I agree. By arguing for exceptional circumstances, we can focus on building for Islanders.

So yes, I want the Island to have lower housing targets to protect our landscape, BUT I want almost all housing built to be housing for Islanders who are struggling to find somewhere to live.

It’s been my goal to deliver a planning system which is community-led, environment-led and which drives regeneration - a system which is better for the Island.

Councillors now need to decide to act. 

I have no doubt that there will be opposition to change, but this is where councillors need to show leadership and insist on producing a plan which is better for our natural world, and better for Islanders too.

I have yet to meet an Islander who does not believe the Island should not have special circumstances.

I hope councillors remember that, when they decide whether to argue for the Island’s unique and exceptional circumstances.