Planning system overhaul 'damage' feared

Oxfordshire countryside Conservationists say the threat to the countryside will grow as the economy recovers

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A proposed planning system overhaul in England could lead to "unchecked and damaging development", campaigners say.

The draft National Planning Policy Framework introduces a "presumption in favour of sustainable development".

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said it feared "grave" consequences. The National Trust said the government was "putting short term financial gain ahead of everything else".

Planning minister Greg Clark has said a "simpler, swifter" system is needed.

The framework streamlines more than 1,000 pages of policy into just 52, transforming a system whose "volume and complexity have made planning increasingly inaccessible to all but specialists", according to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Mr Clark said: "National planning policy and central government guidance has become so bloated that it now contains more words than the complete works of Shakespeare, making it impenetrable to ordinary people."

The department insists that protections for the natural and historic environment underpin its proposals, which also encourage "opportunities for sustainable growth to rebuild the economy".

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "The new approach to planning will be a significant step forward in creating the right conditions for businesses to start up, invest, grow and create jobs."

'Wrong place'

Start Quote

The government needs to listen and make further improvements or the consequences for the countryside, towns and villages will be grave”

End Quote Campaign to Protect Rural England

But the National Trust expressed concern over the framework's "core presumption that the default answer to development will be 'yes'".

This could be "a green-light for poor quality or development in the wrong place", the charity warned.

"We know from our own experience that new development can combine economic benefit with great results for people and the environment," the National Trust said.

"By changing their plans to make sure this happens everywhere, the government could lead us towards a green industrial revolution.

"Without these key changes, the country's green spaces and built heritage will come under the kind of threat not seen in decades."

The CPRE said it welcomed "much of the thinking" behind the government's draft framework.

It acknowledged that more people needed to engage with planning, but the system's complexity had become a "barrier".

However, the group added: "With their crude focus on economic growth and default 'yes' to development, ministers are storing up plenty of unintended consequences for the future.

"Over the next few months the government needs to listen and make further improvements or the consequences for the English countryside and the character of our towns and villages will be grave."

Labour's shadow local government minister, Jack Dromey, said: "David Cameron's government has spent months dithering over the National Planning Policy Framework, causing chaos in the planning system. In the meantime, investment by house builders, developers, energy companies, and transport organisations has been put off due to the uncertainty, damaging this country's economic growth.

"Pushing this document out during the recess, when it should have been published to support the scrutiny of the Localism Bill and whilst Parliament was in session, is unacceptable. This is not the way to begin consultation on an issue of such national importance."

A 12-week consultation on the draft framework has been launched.

The government says the proposals maintain a commitment to protecting green belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Other main points include:

  • A commitment to public transport, as well as encouraging provision of charging points for electric cars and welcoming other low-emission vehicles
  • Emphasis on tackling noise pollution, as well as light pollution "affecting the beauty of the night sky"
  • Facilitation of a new generation of renewable energy projects, as part of an acknowledgment of the role of planning in tackling climate change

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Businesses will welcome the concept of shorter, simpler planning rules, but they need to see more than just a new policy document to regain confidence in the planning system.

"A pro-growth approach must fast become reality on the ground, with local councils saying yes to business growth and expansion far more than they do at present."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Oh, George Osborne was at a bike factory today!

    I'm surprised he didn't quote Norman Tebbit when he told the unemployed to get on their bikes and find work.

    Of course, there must be jobs around for people to find work but, by the time this Tory bunch and their poodles have finished with the country there won't be any jobs. However, I suspect this is exactly what the Tory's had planned all along.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Hmmm more Tory ideology being unleashed - it seems that all that these changes will do is allow the Tory's to farm out development to their "friends".

    We will now see developers building eye sores all over the country for the sake of huge profits and to the detriment of all others.

    I wouldn't have expected anything else from the "children" of St Maggie (Thatcher).

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Local planning (Cotswolds) only interested in visual impact.
    Recent infill application - planners insisted on identical property to house next door - no eco-style home.
    I suggested stipulations for water recycling, improved insulation, solar panels & heating, triple glazing, etc. Planners stipulated nothing. Except house must be painted same colour as other properties.
    Planning MUST change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    This is NOT about nimbys. It is about where massive development is appropriate and where it is inappropriate. There are many areas where housing can be built which don't spoil beautiful places we all treasure. But with the presumption for growth, this will not be taken into account. You could see the worst place getting the development just because it came up first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    It's disgusting that we have nearly 6 million people waiting for affordable housing.
    It's disgusting that we have a higher population than most other countries but yet have the smallest percentage of land designated for housing people.
    It's disgusting that the current NIMBY's use the excuse "we must protect the land for future generations", when what they really mean is "I'm all right Jack"! >


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