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Thursday, 25 June 2015 16:39

Roseacre fracking refusal reaction

CPRE reaction on Lancashire County Council's decision today to refuse Cuadrilla’s application to frack at Roseacre Wood on the basis of its impact on traffic.

Jackie Copley, planning manager for CPRE Lancashire, comments:

"We are relieved that consent has not been given to Cuadrilla to develop shale gas operations at the Roseacre Wood site.

"To help ensure that any operations were conducted safely, we had stipulated a condition to confine fracking to the target rock formations, which the councillors discussed but the council officer failed to take on board. We hope that our point is heard for the decision to be taken on Monday about the Preston New Road site. At such early stages of exploration and exploitation of shale gas, we must establish exemplary practice and sound regulation."

CPRE senior energy campaigner Nick Clack, said:

“Fracking for shale gas and oil is a new process onshore in the UK and so presents new risks to communities and the environment. The decisions on Cuadrilla’s fracking applications in Lancashire are setting an important precedent for any future proposals so it’s vital that these decisions are based on a precautionary approach and apply the strongest possible safeguards. However, in terms of the national regulatory framework, CPRE believes that we are still some way away from the gold standard that’s needed to ensure environmental protection as well as increase public confidence.”

CPRE director of policy and campaigns Neil Sinden reflects on the Government’s announcement to introduce new planning guidance on onshore wind development and empower local communities in the decision making process. The announcement accompanied the decision to withdraw subsidies from wind farm projects in April 2016.

“While onshore wind can make an important and greener contribution to our energy mix, we need to ensure that new energy infrastructure does not damage the beauty, character and tranquillity of our countryside. Turbines built in the wrong place can cause harm to the landscape in a number of ways – through visual, noise or wildlife impacts.

“New infrastructure also impacts on local communities. Despite numerous planning reforms, communities still feel their local environment lacks sufficient protection from damaging development, so the new Government commitment is a welcome response to concerns about the impact of badly-sited developments on the landscape.

“Wind farms should only be allowed where local communities have been able to engage with developers and councils, achieving sensitively-located and well-designed infrastructure. Communities would prefer developments on brownfield or low quality agricultural land that have very low visual, noise and wildlife impacts. Offshore wind also needs good planning to minimise visual intrusion in coastal areas and the associated onshore impacts, such as grid connections.

“Planning policies should be able to effectively steer energy development to the most appropriate locations, and we need a community right of appeal against damaging proposals where a neighbourhood plan is being prepared.”

A report, So much more than the view…, is published today by CPRE’s long term comrade’s National Parks England and the National Association for AONBs. It highlights the wide range of benefits these iconic areas provide to society including to the economy and people’s health and wellbeing.

Emma Marrington, CPRE Senior Rural Policy campaigner, comments:

“We welcome this fantastic report, which sets out why England’s designated landscapes are valuable to the nation and offer great bang for the buck. They are visited by 260 million people annually, who spend in excess of £6 billion and support thousands of jobs and businesses – all for less than £1 a person in public spending each year. CPRE is delighted that the report cites the increasing interest in dark skies tourism - we supported both Exmoor and Northumberland National Parks in their bids for international Dark Sky status.

"Of course, National Parks and AONBs aim to maintain thriving, living landscapes, where natural assets are conserved and enhanced and where people, businesses and communities can prosper. It is a huge challenge for the managers of these landscapes to ensure that only truly sustainable development gets the go ahead – but AONBs do not have the final say about planning proposals that affect their landscapes. The continued threat of budget cuts from Government (and local authorities) means that the long-term protection and enhancement of these nationally important landscapes could be jeopardised. This report provides welcome evidence for why National Parks and AONBs deserve secure investment so that they can maximise the potential for both people and landscape.”

Wednesday, 27 May 2015 15:38

Energy Bill in Queen's Speech

The Queen’s Speech contained an Energy Bill, which will include provisions to transfer existing consenting powers for large onshore windfarm applications (above 50 megawatts) to local planning authorities. The Bill will also contain measures to increase energy security focused on offshore oil and gas.

Nick Clack, senior energy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:

“CPRE supports a strong, democratic planning system that ensures the right development in the right places and protects the countryside — whether that’s onshore wind turbines, housing or transport infrastructure. We therefore welcome the move to give local planning authorities powers to decide on large onshore windfarms, but also urge the Government to afford communities greater say over other elements of the planning system.

“Despite numerous planning reforms there is still insufficient protection for the countryside, and local communities are left with the overall feeling of being disempowered, with decision making having become more centralised. CPRE would like to see the Government support local aspirations by introducing a community right of appeal against speculative development in areas where a neighbourhood plan has been prepared.”

“The Government seems fixated on increasing energy security through action on energy supply, yet looks like missing the opportunity to include proposals in the Energy Bill to reduce energy demand — such as much-needed action to improve the energy efficiency of our leaky homes and other buildings. Saving energy is undoubtedly the most effective way of increasing energy security as well as creating jobs, saving people money, helping to tackle fuel poverty and cutting carbon emissions.

The Queen’s Speech will include a Bill giving tenants of houses owned by housing associations the ‘right to buy’ their property at a large discount. Ministers have promised that any houses sold will be replaced one for one by new affordable homes.

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:

“Previous governments have sensibly ensured that the Right to Buy a council house did not apply in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and certain small villages and remote rural areas. If we extend the Right to Buy to housing associations without excluding this provision in our finest landscapes and other remote areas we could lose large numbers of invaluable rural affordable homes, with little scope to replace them nearby without harm to the landscape. CPRE urges that the same exemptions are applied for housing associations as for council houses.”

The Bill also includes provision for a ‘Right to Build’ which will give people who want to build or commission their own home the right to be allocated land with planning permission. Paul Miner commented:

“CPRE cautiously welcomes the Right to Build measures. For too long we’ve relied on large volume housebuilders who trickle out small numbers of new houses in bland, standard designs. This provision will enable local builders to play a much greater role in providing good quality new homes that local people need. We would like to see measures that ensure that such schemes are genuinely locally-led, with a focus on neighbourhood planning processes as a means to bring them forward, and pay careful attention to protecting local environment and cultural heritage, for example by incentivising the use of suitable small previously developed sites.”

The new Energy secretary, Amber Rudd, has made a statement saying that no more onshore wind farm schemes will be given the go ahead unless they have the support of local people.

Nick Clack, senior energy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:

“CPRE supports a strong, democratic planning system that ensures the right development in the right places and protects the countryside – whether that’s onshore wind turbines, housing or transport infrastructure. We therefore welcome in principle Amber Rudd’s commitment to put ‘the local community back in charge’ of onshore wind, but also urge the Government to give communities greater say over other elements of the planning system.

“Despite numerous planning reforms there is still insufficient protection for the countryside, and local communities are left with the overall feeling of being disempowered, with decision making becoming more centralised. CPRE would like to see the Government support local aspirations by introducing a community right of appeal against speculative development in areas where a neighbourhood plan has been prepared.”

Friday, 15 May 2015 13:40

City Devolution Bill

Speaking in Manchester yesterday the Chancellor, George Osborne, promised a ‘revolution’ in the way England is governed with elected mayors presiding over far greater powers in major cities.

Ralph Smyth, transport campaign manager at Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:

"The proposed City Devolution Bill risks creating a two-tier England: cities powering ahead on the one hand and a rump of peripheral shires being forced to make ever deeper cuts on the other.

“In relation to transport, for example, we risk ending up with giant car parks on the edges of cities, to enable public transport starved rural dwellers to interchange onto urban public transport. In the Prime Minister’s Witney constituency, controversial plans are afoot for a 1000 space car park to be dumped on a village at the same time as rural bus routes are slashed.

"Outside major urban areas, responsibilities for planning, transport, economy and health are divided up between different levels of local government. This represents a massive problem. Rather than rush ahead, England needs a national conversation about how to make sure our Rural Powerhouse is not short-changed by hasty action.”

Thursday, 14 May 2015 14:15

Too much right to buy?

The Conservative manifesto committed the new Government to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants. Luke Burroughs, CPRE policy and research adviser, explains why he's worried about this extension of the scheme.

"As a housing researcher, I am concerned about the potential impacts of the extension of the Right to Buy to housing association homes.  Despite high demand, the supply of affordable housing in rural communities is already worryingly low, accounting for just 12% of housing stock. Increased and continuing provision of affordable housing is essential to the sustainability and vitality of the countryside.

"Rural communities already face the challenges of higher average house prices and lower average wages than urban areas. These challenges are driving people to move from the rural communities that they grew up in to seek housing elsewhere.  Extending the Right to Buy is likely to exacerbate this problem, with an increased number of invaluable rural affordable homes lost to the open market forever. (Despite the promise of "one for one replacement", since 2012, only 46% of properties sold under recent Right-to-Buy legislation have been replaced).

"Extending Right to Buy is also likely to have a hugely detrimental impact upon the specialist housing associations that are providing rural affordable housing.  Cuts to subsidies and welfare reform have led housing associations to increase borrowing against the value of their housing stock. Forcing them to sell this stock at a discount may lead to the collapse of these indispensable organisations."

MP Greg Clark has been announced as the replacement for Eric Pickles as secretary of state for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

As Mr Clark has advocated cycling in the past, with a campaign to increase cycling levels in his Tunbridge Wells constituency in 2013, CPRE recognises his appointment as potentially great news for cycling.

Ralph Smyth, transport campaign manager at Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:

"The New Secretary of State Greg Clark has championed cycling in his local area, which is bound to mean a different approach - a better approach.

"We would like to see better planning guidance, which builds in high rates of walking and cycling. Significant numbers of homes are proposed in many towns and it makes sense to do all we can to help people in those new homes get cycling.

"Fear about traffic clogging up the roads is one of the most common reasons why new housing developments are opposed. If you build in Dutch style cycle infrastructure from the start, you can tackle traffic issues and won't have the extra cost of expanding road capacity.

"There's also great scope for neighbourhood planning, which Greg Clark has promoted passionately, to deliver bottom up action on walking and cycling. Our transport toolkit is full of hints and examples."

Visit the Transport Toolkit website

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