Minister denies shift on planning policy proposals

 
House under construction Campaigners say they fear the plans threaten the countryside

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The government has denied it is considering a U-turn over controversial proposals to alter the planning system.

Planning minister Greg Clark said the changes in England were "absolutely crucial" but he also agreed to talk to opponents of the proposals.

He said "particular aspects" could be addressed if groups such as the National Trust felt they were unclear.

Shadow communities minister Jack Dromey said he welcomed the government's willingness to talk.

Mr Clark said the government would not back down on its aim to boost house-building and encourage business.

Campaigners say they fear excessive development under the Draft National Planning Policy Framework.

The plan, published in July, streamlines policy that is currently more than 1,000 pages down to just 52 and features a presumption of "sustainable development".

The Department for Communities and Local Government says it intends to transform a system whose "volume and complexity have made planning increasingly inaccessible to all but specialists".

But the National Trust said the plans "failed to protect the everyday places that local communities love" while the Campaign to Protect Rural England said the government needed "to listen and make further improvements or the consequences for the English countryside and the character of our towns and villages will be grave".

'Good for business'

Greg Clark defends reforms to the current system

Mr Clark told the BBC it was "absolutely crucial" for the government to simplify planning processes so that homes could be built and to encourage business.

"We're building fewer homes than can accommodate young people that need to be housed, we've got a problem of homelessness, overcrowding, poverty as rents rise.

"For companies expanding or relocating they need a new building and it's crucial that when they're thinking of Britain as a place to relocate they know they won't have to wait years with vast expense and uncertainty."

The housing minister denied there would be any backtracking on the plans, despite his agreement to hold talks.

He said it was "quite right" to consult because of the extent of the changes, and invited opponents to be very specific about any concerns.

"Let's be forensic about this - if there are particular aspects or sentences that you don't think express clearly enough the protections that are there, then let's talk about it.

Start Quote

If there are particular aspects or sentences that you don't think express clearly enough the protections that are there, then let's talk about it.”

End Quote Greg Clark, planning minister

Labour's Jack Dromey welcomed the government's decision to talk to campaign groups, but said ministers' previous stance showed "how out of touch they are".

"Labour is in favour of sustainable development - but what the Tory-led government are offering is a downgrading of the rules which protect our natural environment."

Mr Clark also criticised the National Trust for using pictures of Los Angeles in its campaign against the plans.

He said that such large-scale urban sprawl was "not going to happen here" and reiterated the government's commitment to protect the green belt, national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Councils would also have more responsibility under the new regime - which would mean better planning decisions, argued Mr Clark.

Shaun Spiers, the chief executive of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, rejected Mr Clark's assurances and said the proposals would give too much say to developers.

"What the government is talking about is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, but if you read the National Planning Policy Framework in its draft form, what is clear is that is a presumption in favour of development, and at every point sustainability is undermined.

"What they're really talking about is a policy of 'build, build, build'. This is about economic development. It's about prosperity over people and places."

Peter Nixon, the National Trust's director of conservation, welcomed Mr Clark's invitation to hold talks but also criticised the changes.

He told the Times newspaper that the government had the right "aspirations" but the proposals currently did not allow planning authorities to make decisions in a "balanced way".

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 271.

    As a Planning professional in a Local Authority, one of Mr Cameron's "enemies of enterprise", I can reassure everyone that this will not assist in delivering masses of affordable housing. The first thing the developers look to cut is the affordable housing provision in new housing applications, as there's not enough profit in in for them. Bottom line - this won't deliver.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 270.

    There are untold numbers of unoccupied or abandoned buildings that could be bought up to scratch or converted for habitation for less than the cost of building those horrible clone newbuilds. But no, instead these buildings fall to vandalism and the elements while we destroy more and more of our greenbelt. Clever.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 232.

    It strikes me that there isn't a housing shortage at all. Many posters here suggest that in their localities there are many unsold or unoccupied houses.

    In our area a development took place of 25 houses against the wish of the local residents. Public meetings took place to no avail.

    None of the houses built are "starter Homes" or "low cost" - all that has happened is profit for a few people!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 159.

    Give it a couple of years more and you'll start to see the real unsustainability of of planned growth. It's a matter of simple arithmetic, not dogma, and not even economics.
    You'll be screaming for the reinstatement of the railways and houses near workplaces etc.
    All it needs is the gov of the day to stand back and see what's really happening to the worlds resources.
    Further growth is not possible

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 37.

    If you continue to develop brownfield sites then you leave no spaces and end up with cluttered, ugly towns - with no space to breathe. you just can't keep on cramming more and more people into such small spaces.

    As for rural villages - once upon a time all the new buildings there would have seemed ugly compared with what was there before.

    Tradition isn't everything.

 

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