We join with councillors and FoE to oppose dismantling of planning system

10th December 2020

More than two thousand local councillors (2,062) have joined with CPRE and Friends of the Earth to call on the government to abandon the most damaging elements of its changes to the planning system.

The changes the government have proposed threaten to silence local voices on planning issues and treasured areas of local green space and countryside.

In an open letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, the councillors warn that the proposed changes to planning will undermine the trust that the public has in the planning system and ‘could radically reduce protections for nature, local green spaces and fail to tackle climate change.’

Local democracy is a major concern for the signatories, with the proposals as they stand leading to ‘an unacceptable loss of local democracy, scrutiny and accountability and worse outcomes for communities’.

Not too late for a rethink

CPRE  chief  executive Crispin Truman said: ‘The message from MPs, communities and now over 2,000 councillors is clear but it is not too late for the government to rethink its controversial upheaval of the planning system.

‘Planning done well can create the affordable and well-designed homes that communities are crying out for. We can create low carbon and nature friendly homes, with an abundance of green space on their doorsteps, all connected by low carbon public transport. Investing in a locally-led democratic planning system, that empowers local councils to create these places, should be the government’s top priority.

‘We stand with these councillors in urging ministers to work with us to develop and deliver a better set of planning reforms that can actually deliver our country’s environmental, economic and social objectives.’

The government’s proposed changes to the planning system would be the biggest change to the planning system since the Town and Country Planning Act in 1947.

Massive local and national opposition

The proposals have already faced fierce opposition from local councillors, local communities, MPs, former Cabinet Ministers and even the former Prime Minister Theresa May MP. Over 350 of the councillors, or one in six of those who signed the letter, are Conservatives.
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A recent poll off Conservative backbench MPs, conducted by Savanta Comres, also found that more than half of Conservative MPs (55%) on the backbenches are considering opposing the government’s upheaval of the planning system as set out in the planning white paper. More than three-quarters (78%) of MPs surveyed think it is important that local councils should choose and prioritise the most suitable development sites.

The letter from local councillors notes: ‘The right development, in the right place has the potential to deliver social equity and sustainable economic growth, as well as meeting our environmental ambitions. The government’s proposals as they stand will not achieve these goals. With this is mind, we urge you [Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government] to rethink the proposals you have set out and work with elected representatives in developing a positive vision for planning.’

Laptop with cup of tea and other callers on screen

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The legacy of Ethel’s vision and determination lives on thanks to the continued efforts of the Friends of the Peak District, and she remains an inspiration to everyone within CPRE