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Osborne and Pickles: talking, not listening

5 September 2011

Responding to comments made by Chancellor George Osborne and Communities Sectary Eric Pickles in a joint article for the Financial Times (, Shaun Spiers, Campaign to Protect Rural England Chief Executive, says:

“The Treasury’s ill-informed intervention in the planning debate reinforces the sense that the Government’s planning reforms are more about boosting short term growth figures than about truly sustainable development.  

“It is unfortunate that just as Greg Clark has offered to talk with critics of the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), his senior colleagues have indicated that they are unwilling to listen or to compromise, preferring to talk of their ‘determination to win this battle’. 

“No one is defending unacceptable delays in the planning system.  We agree that it needs reform.  And we agree that the country needs many more homes, particularly affordable homes. 

“But there is no good evidence that the planning system is stopping us building the homes we need, or that it is holding back economic recovery.  The Government’s proposals to skew the planning system in favour of economic development at the expense of environmental and social considerations are unlikely to result in more development, just more poor quality development on greenfield land.

“Unless the Government thinks again, its proposals will cause irreversible damage to both our towns and countryside.  It is time that David Cameron stepped in to ensure a planning system that can genuinely serve the public interest, not just short-term economic interests.” 

This is not the first time that the Treasury has attempted to undermine the public interest role of planning and elevate economic ends over people and places.  Commenting on Gordon Brown’s efforts to liberalise the planning system in 2004, Eric Pickles said:

“The Treasury seems … determined to loosen control to make development easier…  Adding to suburban sprawl will detract from rather than help urban regeneration and Brownfield redevelopment, and fuel the migration from our towns and cities.”

He went on to say: “There has to be a greater emphasis on regenerating our towns and cities, and using previously developed Brownfield land on which to focus new development.  That has the advantage of building within communities rather that over them.” [1]

The draft NPPF proposes to end the ‘brownfield first’ policy first introduced by the last Conservative Government in 1995.

Notes to Editors
[1] Eric Pickles website:

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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