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Radical planning shake-up threatens green fields

Monday, 25 July 2011 15:12

The Government has today (Monday) published a highly sensitive draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for public consultation [1][2]. This represents the biggest shake-up of planning for over 50 years and CPRE believes it will place the countryside under increasing threat as the economy recovers.

An earlier leaked copy of the NPPF received a hostile reception from conservation and environmental groups. The Government has made some welcome improvements, for example proposals to curb light pollution. But many elements of the new draft are deeply worrying. In particular, Ministers have failed to commit to the principle that the countryside should be protected for its own intrinsic character, beauty and heritage.

Shaun Spiers, CPRE Chief Executive, says: “The draft planning framework is an improvement on the version we saw earlier this month, but major problems remain. The new framework will make the countryside and local character much less safe from damaging and unnecessary development. If it is not amended, there will be battles against development across the country that will make the public revolt against the sale of the forests look like a tea party.”

CPRE fears pressure on the countryside from damaging development will grow due to:

  • Loss of emphasis on brownfield regeneration - as a result of the removal of the national brownfield target [3] and the failure to promote efficient use of land
  • Over-allocation of land for new housing - the draft NPPF requires local councils to allocate at least 20% additional sites for housing over and above the existing five year supply [4]
  • Weakening of the ‘town centre first’ policy by removing office development from the sequential test [5]
  • Pressure for increased car use - by removing the requirement to set maximum parking standards for non-residential parking [6] in major development
  • Abolition of exceptions policy which allows small scale affordable housing to be built in rural settlements, which is likely to add to pressure for market housing and reduce the supply of affordable housing [7]
  • Weakening of controls over outdoor advertisements, including no mention of billboards being inappropriate in the countryside [8]
  • Changes to Green Belt policy which would allow local communities to support building which would previously have been restricted [9]

Shaun Spiers continues: “The Government admits that policy changes, such as removing priority for brownfield development and allowing ‘Community Right to Build’ schemes could lead to greater development on greenfield land [10]. Although they say protected landscapes, like Green Belts and AONBs, will still be protected, and that is to be welcomed, it seems it is open season for the rest of the countryside, including some of our finest agricultural land. We fear that in reality what is proposed will weaken Green Belt protection, in spite of Ministers’ intentions. [11].

“CPRE welcomes much of the thinking behind the Government’s reform of the planning system. We do need more people engaging with planning, and its complexity has become a barrier. But 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.”


Notes to Editors
[1] Department of Communities and Local Government, Draft National Planning Policy Framework, 27 July 2011.
[2] Greg Clark, Minister of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Forward to the National Planning Policy Framework, 25 July 2011.
[3] Department of Communities and Local Government, Draft National Planning Policy Framework: Impact assessment, 25 July 2011, page 95.
[4] See 1 page 30
[5] See 1 page 45
[6] See 3 page 39
[7] See 3 page 97
[8] See 1 page 34
[9] See 3 page 72
[10] See 3 page 95]
[11] See 3: “there is a risk there could be a small-scale loss of Green Belt” page 75
“Including Community Right to Build schemes could lead to greater development in the GB” page 73

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our 57,000 members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Bill Bryson, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.

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