A cause for celebration: the government has had a rethink on their unpopular planning changes

16th December 2020

Following CPRE pressure, we’re seeing movement from the government on the plans that would have seen community-altering decisions made by a computer formula. Now we’re looking ahead to what we can do next.

The government’s controversial plans to change the systems that control what gets built and where have been changed. It’s a great sign that the government is listening – and that CPRE’s campaigning has been noticed.

The unpopular element of the plans that included using an algorithm to dictate what numbers of houses should be built in each area has been adjusted, much to our delight.

CPRE groups and supporters have been arguing for changes to the ill-conceived government plans since they were announced in August 2020, so as our chief executive, Crispin Truman, says, ‘we’re pleased to see the government is listening and willing to revise their damaging proposals’.

'We’re pleased to see the government is listening and willing to revise their damaging proposals.'
Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive

And some of the key areas that we at CPRE are passionate about, such as ensuring that new building is first focused on previously used or neglected land, are now being favoured by Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, in the updated plans.

This is great to see – a real win for people’s voices (including the 310,000 of you who added your names to our petition calling for the plans to be rethought) – and for our CPRE campaigning work.

Next: a complete reboot

There’s lots to celebrate here; as Crispin says, the new focus on new building happening in more urban and disused land is ‘something we‘ve been calling for and is a win-win scenario for people and nature.’

But we’re not ready to rest on our laurels quite yet. The fact that Robert Jenrick has signalled that he’s willing to make changes is a great start, but here at CPRE we know the government’s intentions, outlined in their Planning for the Future white paper, inside out – and we know that there’s lots more work to be done.

Adjusting the unpopular computer-based way of calculating what building targets should be applied to each area is a good start, but, as Crispin says, ‘But the problems with these planning proposals run much deeper than the housing algorithm, which are in need of a complete reboot, not just an update.’

'These planning proposals ... are in need of a complete reboot, not just an update.'
Crispin Truman

So we want to see this government flexibility continue, and to treat today’s announcement as, in Crispin’s words, ‘the start of a much-needed debate about how to ensure the right development in the right place across the whole country.’

Let’s keep going

Shifting the focus away from too readily building on green spaces and instead prioritising those areas where the land is out of use and neglected is a great start. It’s a brilliant way to kick off a more open and considered approach to changing the planning rules. Our research shows that there’s already room for more than a million homes on that land that stands empty, ready to be recycled and with planning permission already cued up.

So we’ll be watching to see what flexibility the government is willing to show next. We can see some pretty big issues that we’d like to see prioritised, summarised here by Crispin.

‘The key test for these changes to the housing algorithm will be whether they help give local councils the ability to plan the quality, affordable homes we need, while preventing unnecessary loss of countryside and green spaces.’

So we’re ready and waiting to see how things develop from here, and we’ll keep talking to the government and making the case for the countryside. We want to see ministers build on this promising start and go further, making sure, in Crispin’s words, ’we breathe new life into our towns and cities whilst building more affordable homes and responding to the climate emergency.’

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Gloved hands holding a small house in a snowy scene
Time to celebrate: good news on plans to build new homes Cat Lane / iStock

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