National Trust criticises draft planning reforms

New building in a Yorkshire village The National Trust fears local people will lose the option to object to building plans

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The National Trust has criticised draft planning reforms, saying the system should protect public interests, not primarily promote economic growth.

After talks with minister Greg Clark, director Dame Fiona Reynolds said the government should clarify its position.

The group is among critics of the draft National Planning Policy Framework, which intends to slash 1,000 pages of policy to just 52.

Mr Clark said the reforms would provide homes for the next generation.

Dame Fiona said she welcomed Mr Clark's invitation to the National Trust to engage in further dialogue about the changes.

Petition push

But she added: "We're not prepared to enter into such talks until we have a clear statement, from the highest levels of government, clarifying that the planning system is not there principally to promote economic development.

"Planning is essential for protecting vital public interests, including the quality of the landscape, respect for environmental limits, and making good places."

The document's "core principles" include proposing that those making decisions about planning applications "should assume that the default answer to development proposals is 'yes' except where this would compromise the key sustainable development principles set out".

Earlier, National Trust external affairs director Ben Cowell said: "The danger is, the way the document has been written.

"The tension within government policy is between localism and economic growth and they come down clearly on the side of economic growth.

"So local people will be given the power to say yes but not the power to say no."

'Completely compatible'

Trust members have been asked to sign a petition against the plans in the hope it will gain more than 100,000 signatures, which could trigger a debate in Parliament.

The government believes the reforms are key to making the planning system less complex and more accessible.

After Tuesday's meeting, a spokesman for Mr Clark said the minister "was confident that the objectives of the government and the trust were completely compatible - to ensure that the planning system is simplified and delivers sustainably the houses and jobs we need."

Specific concerns could be addressed in further meetings, he said.

"Mr Clark confirmed that, as it always has been, the role of the planning system continues to ensure that promoting growth is combined with safeguarding our natural and historic environment," the spokesman said.

The consultation period began on 25 July and ends on 17 October.

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