Next month (November) the Government is expected to publish its plans for radical reform of the planning system, a significant part of its localism agenda. In anticipation of this, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) today (Monday) publishes its own Charter highlighting key areas Ministers will need to address if this critical legislation is to succeed in protecting and enhancing the countryside, and regenerating our cities, towns and villages.
Shaun Spiers, CPRE Chief Executive, says: “Planning can often seem technical and inaccessible, but it shapes our landscape and the places in which we live and work. Planning influences how our streets will look and where we build our homes. Are we building for the long term and protecting the countryside for future generations, or are we allowing construction now that we will regret in later years?
“Getting these reforms right will be vital if we are to safeguard and enhance the beauty of town and country. They will decide the visual, social and environmental impact that development will have on the English landscape for years to come.”
Key policies to look out for:
A fairer appeals process: CPRE welcomed both Coalition partners’ previous commitments to allow local communities the opportunity to appeal against planning decisions[3,4]. Currently only developers have the right to appeal against such decisions, leaving the system heavily skewed towards their interests and allowing some businesses the opportunity to bully and intimidate local authorities and communities - the antithesis of localism. A new, limited community right of appeal should be introduced to re-balance the planning system, empower local people as part of the Big Society and improve the quality of planning decisions.
Incentives to build: We need high quality, well designed and appropriately located homes that meet local needs and enhance distinctiveness. We are concerned that offering financial incentives to local authorities for granting planning permission for housing could result in large scale house building, regardless of the consequences for the environment or social cohesion. Incentives should only support the provision of new homes that are in line with the local plan.
An open and accessible process: The reforms will make local plans a key tool for protecting and enhancing our countryside. The views of local people are vital. But it is also important to develop local plans on a foundation of solid evidence. Discussions with local communities should be framed within the context of development needs and impact assessments, as well as broader national priorities. ‘Community Right to Build’ referendums should be used to complement the planning process and support local people’s participation in constructing local plans.
Shaun Spiers concludes: “The planning system is largely responsible for the fact that, although we live on a crowded island, most people are still only a short distance away from beautiful and tranquil countryside. The Government is taking the right approach to planning by empowering local people. At the same time, it is important not to lose sight of the vital role a strong national framework must play in protecting our unique English countryside.”
Download: ‘Making localism work for the countryside: CPRE’s charter for planning reform’
Notes to Editors
1. ‘Radically reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods much greater ability to determine the shape of the places in which their inhabitants live, based on the principles set out in the Conservative Party publication “Open Source Planning”.’ Communities and Local Government (July 2010) Department for Communities and Local Government Draft Structural Reform Plan
2. Campaign to Protect Rural England, ‘Making localism work for the countryside: CPRE’s charter for planning reform,’ 1st November 2010
3. ‘We will create a third-party right of appeal in cases where planning decisions go against locally agreed plans’ Liberal Democrat (2010) Manifesto
4. ‘We will make the system symmetrical by allowing appeals against local planning decisions from local residents, as well as from developers’ Conservatives’ (2010) Open Source Planning Green Paper
5. See CPRE press release, Big Society should mean stronger rights to challenge bad planning decisions: http://www.cpre.org.uk/news/view/697
6. See CPRE press release, Community Right to Build needs further thought: http://www.cpre.org.uk/news/view/694
• CPRE, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, is a charity which promotes the beauty, tranquillity and diversity of rural England. We advocate positive solutions for the long-term future of the countryside. Founded in 1926, we have 60,000 supporters and a branch in every county. President: Bill Bryson. Patron: Her Majesty The Queen. www.cpre.org.uk