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Planning reforms putting rural England under siege

24 March 2014

England's green fields are being targeted for housing estates England's green fields are being targeted for housing estates © Shutterstock

The Government’s planning reforms are unnecessarily damaging the countryside and undermining local democracy while failing to prioritise the regeneration of urban areas, concludes a new report launched by CPRE.

Community Control or Countryside Chaos? analyses the impact of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on the countryside in the two years since it was adopted.  The research has found that the reforms are forcing local councils to accept major developments against their will in all parts of the country from Devon to Derbyshire and Suffolk to Staffordshire. 

It reveals plans for over 700,000 houses in the countryside - including 200,000 allocated for the Green Belt. As a consequence, the countryside surrounding towns and villages across England is under siege (see page 10 of our report). Sites already earmarked for housing are being left undeveloped while councils are under increasing pressure to allocate more and more land for future development.

This pressure has significantly slowed the rate at which local plans are being adopted, meaning councils are powerless to decide what land should be developed in the best interests of local communities.  The report also reveals that only a quarter of local authorities propose to prioritise brownfield sites over greenfield because the NPPF does not give enough support for them to do so.

CPRE’s research shows over two thirds of appeals for major housing have gone in favour of developers in the last year. Councils are increasingly reluctant to defend an appeal due to the risk of incurring costs, which can go into the hundreds of thousands of pounds if they reject inappropriate development that is ultimately overturned.

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive of CPRE, said: ‘This report provides firm evidence from across England that the Government’s planning reforms are not achieving their stated aims. Far from community control of local development, we are seeing councils under pressure to disregard local democracy to meet top-down targets.

‘Local authorities are having to agree fanciful housing numbers and allocate huge areas of greenfield land to meet them. Where they lack an up to date plan, the countryside is up for grabs and many villages feel under siege from developers. But tragically the result is not more housing, and certainly not more affordable housing – just more aggro and less green space. 

‘The Government urgently needs to rethink its planning policies. Otherwise, its defining legacy will be – in the words of Nadhim Zahawi MP – the “physical harm” it does to the countryside. In recent weeks there have been some signs that Ministers are willing to do more to promote brownfield development and protect the Green Belt. This is welcome, but much more needs to be done to protect the countryside, put communities back in the driving seat, and build the new homes the country needs.’

Take action: Sign CPRE's charter to save our countryside and support our appeal

Find out more: Read the report

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