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‘Two Cheers’ for the planning guidance but no bunting just yet

6 March 2014

Responding to the Government’s new National Planning Practice Guidance, Shaun Spiers, CPRE’s Chief Executive said today: ‘We are pleased that the Government has listened to concerns about how the planning reforms are being implemented at the local level. In particular, the first signs of greater support for brownfield development are very welcome.

‘We are very concerned, however, by other aspects of the guidance, not least the proposal to make local authorities release more greenfield land around villages where housing has become more expensive. This will destroy countryside without doing anything to control house prices.

‘The fact that the Government has begun to wake up to the fact that its planning reforms have resulted in some very damaging developments across the country is very welcome. Ministers should be commended for listening. We will be watching closely the impact the new guidance has on planning decisions on the ground.’

CPRE identifies the following aspects of the new guidance as particularly important to the future of our towns and countryside:

  • Under the new guidance local authorities will need to allocate more sites for new housebuilding if housing has become less affordable in an area. Unless the Government and its Planning Inspectors show a proper understanding of the needs of local areas, this will simply lead to more expensive market housing on the edge of villages;
  • There is some encouragement in the guidance to local authorities to set more realistic housebuilding targets based on the constraints to development, such as Green Belt, in their area. But too many Ministerial decisions to date have favoured developers rather than local communities;
  • The guidance promotes the use of brownfield sites before greenfield. This is very welcome, though more needs to be done to unlock the full potential of brownfield land;
  • Despite earlier proposals, landowners wishing to convert agricultural buildings in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other particularly sensitive areas will still need to apply for planning permission. This is a welcome concession but CPRE remains concerned that allowing barn conversions without planning permission could do real damage to the large areas of countryside elsewhere; and
  • We welcome the clarification that visual impact is a key factor when determining applications for solar farms. But this must be translated through actual planning decisions, alongside other important concerns such as prioritising rooftops rather than our best agricultural land.

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