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Coalition of 18 organisations tells government to rethink planning changes

The government should rethink damaging planning proposals and plan back better, urges a coalition of 18 organisations.

The government should rethink major elements of its controversial planning proposals and work with stakeholders to deliver a planning system that puts people, climate and nature at its heart.

The call comes from a broad and united coalition of 18 housing, planning, transport, environmental, heritage and public health organisations that have worked together to forge their own alternative ‘Vision for planning’ in response to the government’s Planning White Paper, published in August last year. The government is expected to make a further announcement in March about whether and how it will take forward the proposals in the White Paper.

The joint ‘Vision for planning’ was launched yesterday (14 January) at a virtual debate with speakers including the Housing Minister the Rt Hon Chris Pincher MP and will be chaired by London City Hall’s Night Czar Amy Lamé.

Commenting on the new joint ‘Vision for planning’, Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said:

‘Today, we’re calling on the government to plan back better and work with us to develop a planning system that puts people, and tackling the climate and ecological emergencies, at its heart. We all deserve a home we can genuinely afford to live in and to have a say in shaping the communities around us.

‘And for over 70 years, a toolbox has been in place to make sure that can happen: the planning system. But as things stand, under the government’s current proposals, the opportunity to influence what happens and where in our communities would be halved.

‘Before Christmas, the government announced a welcome revision of its housing numbers ‘algorithm’. However, this was only one small part of a range of potentially damaging proposals put forward by the government last year.

‘That’s why we’re calling on ministers to take an equally pragmatic approach to improve policies relating to community voice, affordable homes and access to green spaces. Together, we can develop a planning system fit for the 21st century.’

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive, UK Green Building Council, said:

‘The government’s proposed planning reforms do not adequately reflect the important role of the planning system as a key strategic vehicle for decarbonising the economy, enhancing climate resilience and reversing biodiversity decline. If we are to deliver new development that does not compromise our progress towards net zero, the planning system – as outlined in this vision paper – must ensure all new buildings are net zero by 2030 at the latest, with new homes to be net zero as soon as possible.’

Emma Marsh, director of RSPB England, said:

‘Nature is in freefall decline and we have a climate in crisis. Our wildlife is declining at an alarming rate with much loved species at risk of extinction if things continue. A good planning system is critical not just for providing us with homes with access to nature-rich greenspace and the other services that we need, but also for ensuring that our amazing nature is protected and given the space that it needs to recover and thrive again.’

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of Green Alliance, said:

‘For a resilient society, we need environmental and climate priorities to be right at the heart of our planning system, so we hope the government takes careful note of this coalition’s recommendations. To cut pollution and climate impacts, reforms to the planning system must ensure that every home has easy access, via public transport, walking and cycling, to amenities, green spaces and local workplaces. Good spatial planning will be integral to the UK meeting its net zero carbon goal by 2050.’

Naomi Luhde-Thompson, senior planner at Friends of the Earth, said:

‘Planning rules that protect people’s voice and enshrine local democratic accountability on all development must not be removed or weakened. Without these rules we won’t be able to fight the climate or ecological emergencies we are facing.’

Tom Platt, director of advocacy and engagement at the Ramblers, said:

‘During the pandemic, we’ve seen just how important planning is. Those fortunate enough to have easy access to a local park or green space, have benefitted physically and mentally. We have a chance now to learn from past mistakes and set a new course for greener, healthier, and more sustainable communities. The decisions we make today will impact the lives of millions for generations to come and the alternative Vision for Planning gives a solid foundation for this.’

Sarah Mitchell, chief executive of Cycling UK, said:

‘In recent decades, too many housing developments have been designed for car-dependency, with lots of road and parking space. This makes it really hard for children or anyone else to get around in ways that are healthy for themselves and the environment.

‘Instead, we should locate and design new developments to make it safe and easy to walk or cycle to schools and workplaces, shops, public transport, parks and open spaces. We should plan for healthy living, for ourselves and for our children’s future.’

Dr Sue Young, head of land use and planning and ecological networks at the Wildlife Trusts, said:

‘Thousands of people have written to the Government asking for a better planning system that creates healthy places and communities in which both people and nature can thrive. It’s time to integrate nature back into our lives – for the sake of wildlife and for our own happiness and wellbeing. The Wildlife Trusts believe that development can and should contribute to tackling the twin threats from the biodiversity and climate crises, and leave a beneficial legacy for the future.’

Anita Konrad, chief executive of Campaign for National Parks, said:

‘The Planning for the Future White Paper made almost no reference to National Parks, a worrying omission given that National Park Authorities have responsibility for both plan-making and planning decisions in their area. The future of our National Parks depends on a planning system that protects their special environmental qualities and enables sustainable rural economies and communities. We need the Government to consider National Parks as part of these planning reforms and are pleased to support this Vision for Planning.’

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said:

‘Government, local authorities and our communities must all work together to provide everyone with access to good quality green space close to home. This is a vital element of a green recovery following the pandemic. It is essential the government ensures that changes to the planning system are not at the expense of the open green spaces, which people value and visit in their neighbourhoods. These precious open spaces must be adequately funded and protected.’

Kit Stoner, chief executive of the Bat Conservation Trust, said:

‘The current planning system has been developed over many years and has benefits for people, business and wildlife that can and should be built on by careful reforms rather than by wholesale abandonment of existing policy. Planning reforms need to give support to the aims and objectives of the Environment Bill including Local Nature Recovery Strategies and Biodiversity Net Gain.’

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Notes to editors

About our joint Vision for planning

The joint Vision for planning has been developed and supported by the following:

  • ARC
  • Association of Local Environmental Records Centres
  • Bat Conservation Trust
  • Campaign for National Parks
  • CPRE, the countryside charity
  • Cycling UK
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Green Alliance
  • Mammal Society
  • Open Spaces Society
  • Ramblers
  • RSPB
  • The Heritage Alliance
  • Town and Country Planning Association
  • UK Green Building Council
  • Wildlife and Countryside Link
  • Wildlife Trusts
  • Woodland Trust