Critics can get behind new planning rules, says Eric Pickles


Greg Clark: "It's very hard for people to engage with the planning system"

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Business and conservationists should be able to "unite behind" revised planning rules for England, say ministers.

The guidelines, which have been amended after arguments about their effect on the countryside, include encouraging development on brownfield sites.

They say a "presumption in favour of sustainable development" should be a key theme in planning decisions.

Conservation groups welcomed some of the changes but said they would wait to see how they worked in practice.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told the BBC ministers had listened to concerns and had "strengthened" proposals "around the basic principles of sustainable development" - making a good case for the economy, the environment and social policy.

'Golden thread'

He added: "I think this is something that, whether you are in business or whether you are in a green group, you should be able to get behind."

Start Quote

Far from giving us certainty, there is likely to be delay as developments are held up by appeals and by the courts having to rule on a new and untested approach”

End Quote Hilary Benn Labour

Draft proposals, published last year, were opposed by groups including the National Trust, Campaign to Protect Rural England and Friends of the Earth, amid criticism that they amounted to a "developers' charter".

The new framework includes specific references to encouraging development on brownfield sites - a phrase that had been missing from the draft version - to "offer reassurance".

It also offers "five guiding principles" of sustainable development, listed as: living within the planet's means; ensuring a strong, healthy and just society; achieving a sustainable economy; promoting good governance; and using sound science responsibly.

The framework says the presumption towards sustainable development should be "seen as a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking".

But the government said policies such as those protecting the Green Belt, sites of special scientific interest, national parks and other areas could not "be overridden by the presumption".

'Sorely needed'

The framework also allowed councils to protect back gardens, while ensuring that "playing fields continued to benefit from the same protection that they do currently", planning minister Greg Clark said.

The government says planning reform is "sorely needed" as regulations have become too complex and are holding back economic growth. The new framework condenses 1,300 pages to fewer than 100.

The revised national planning policy framework will guide councils in both drawing up their "local plans", which set out their development policies. Planning inspectors must take it into account when judging applications.

Councils without an existing local plan will start to use it immediately. Those which have a plan already will have a year to bring it into line with the framework.

For Labour, shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn welcomed a "U-turn on playing fields and open spaces" but said there should be a national, not local, "brownfield-first" policy.


He said the planning system should produce homes and jobs, as well as protecting green spaces, but the new plans "may end up doing neither".

"Far from giving us certainty, there is likely to be delay as developments are held up by appeals and by the courts having to rule on a new and untested approach," Mr Benn said, adding that this would lead to "uncertainty and chaos".

John Cridland, director-general of the CBI business group, said the government had "kept its nerve" in retaining the presumption in favour of sustainable development, which amounted "not growth at any cost but, equally, not a plan to oppose growth".

Neil Sinden, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said that, "on the face of it, it looks as though the government has listened and responded to the huge public concern that was expressed". But he said the detail must be right to ensure that it could be used by local authorities to defend "the right kind of development in the right place at public inquiries".

National Trust director-general Dame Fiona Reynolds said changes to the framework would "improve the document and give it a better tone and balance", but added she would "watch to see how it works in practice".


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  • Comment number 592.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    New homes are expensive. They are rarely affordable to first time buyers even in the North. As for London/SE £200k+ mortgage for a 1 bed flat? A joke

    The market needs to fall. The government should stop propping it up with low interest rates and 1st time buyer initiatives.

    Doesn't matter how they phrase this - developers will find it easier to build where they want (nice, rural areas).

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    There are millions of acres of derelict industrial & other land throughout the UK - ruining the countryside to satisfy property developers, bankers and other foreignisers as the UK population & housing demand soars because of immigration - will lead many Tories to replace Cameron and Osborne with those having a proper vision - this is an cheap & nasty assault on England's green fields and places

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    I'm fed up with people making the same mistakes, and with those who think the world can be shaped according to their wishes and some how it will all be alright.

    The idea that the under 30s should be able to buy a house is new. Think that you can't is bad? Wait until you have your house but can't afford to feed your children. Privatised water/power companies - think 100x worse.

  • Comment number 588.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    Is it me or have the conservation groups opinions and the tone of the article changed to favour the Governments view since about 3 o'clock this afternoon.
    Not however the views of the vast majority of HYS contributors by the look of it.This Government is desperate if they think such short termism will go unpunished,if only we had an opposition that offers an opposing view!

  • Comment number 586.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    I think that if private individuals own, but do not occupy a house for longer than 12 months because they live elsewhere in the UK, that a review should be done on whether any attempt is being made to use the house effectively, and if not, a requirement made that the house be placed on the market.

    Also, developers should be limited in their building by the amount of unsold properties they have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    It has been well known for a long time that there has been a "market" in planning. The better off (as usual) can pay for decisions, buildings when complete often looking nothing like or even near in size to the "plans". The Tories have now legitimised that very dodgy market, the rich get to win yet again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    since 44 documents have been replaced with a 50page booklet do you think that any vagueness could have been introduced?? can't help but notice the phrase 'local authorities should' appears quite a lot. Is 'should' a robust enough word?

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    I am fed up with my generation (under 30s) being priced out of the housing market in the SE due to a supply squeeze,largely thanks to the older generations protesting whenever new houses are built.

    I think NIMBYs should be made to put forward WORKABLE alternative suggestions for building sites before their opinions are taken into account for planning applications.

  • Comment number 581.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    Dear me, more back to the eighties thinking! Same lack of thought/understanding of the drivers/impacts or of the certain disasters that will follow. More de-regulation in the name of removing red tape, as if the defict wasn't warning enough of where that leads.

    World food and fuel prices set to rocket, no navy to defend trade routes, but hey.. lets concrete ourselves further towards starvation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    I suppose were to take part in a riot over these new planning proposals, the inquiry would blame my parents, my schooling, the police in fact everyone apart from myself and, of course, the government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    Promoting sustainable development & business growth eh??
    I'm now considering making an outline planning application for permission to develop some green belt land into sewage treatment plants - one site in Bucks (adjacent Chequers) & another site in Witney, Oxon (round the back of Mr Cameron's constituency home).
    Should be easier to get permission now.
    Gives a new angle on "all in this together"!

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    FAR MORE SIGNIFICANT than purportedly removing the "burden of red tape" from developers is the fact that the new guidance helps insulate Planning Inspectorate (i.e. government) decisions from Judicial Review.

    With the threat of such challenges much diminished by the new guidance, this government can now screw up our country (and yes, that includes our towns and cities) largely unhindered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.

    550.Proletarian Revolutionary

    Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is a fool.
    Arrogant,yes,but a fool?...I think not.

    He knows just which trough to plunge his snout into,as the usual tory divide & conquer goes exactly to plan,and they're loving every second of it.

    Pickles & his ilk will need a considerable weight lifting from their shoulders before anything really changes here in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 575.

    Is Zalimbekir a buy to let landlord or property developer?
    He sounds like he's got it in for green spaces,wildlife,etcetera

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.

    The planning system has always favoured big business and with the Tories in charge it will continue to do so. Our planning system has deteriorated rapidly in the last 40 years. At my local council NO ONE on the planning team even has a degree in planning any more. It's a big joke. The rich will be able to build wherever they like - just as it has been for years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    We're still up against the shifty secretive behaviour of our local councillors- not because they're on the take, but because they think they know what's best for us.
    Patronising and utterly disconnected from reality, obsessed with retail development and the low paid jobs they bring, able to regurgitate the developer's weasel words flawlessly.
    In my part of West Sussex that is.


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