New planning rules a ‘builders’ charter’

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A COUNTRYSIDE building “free-for-all” will begin unless Government and local communities act now, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Its national president, Sir Andrew Motion, has issued a rallyin call amid claims that the Government’s new planning rule-book threatens to be a builders’ charter.

“I don’t think this Government wants to wreck the countryside,” said Sir Andrew, “but it is going to do so unless it changes course.

“The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) came into full force on March 27th and it is proving to be groundbreaking in all the wrong ways. Developing greenfield sites unnecessarily and with inadequate local consultation is entirely the wrong way to make sure that we get the new homes the country so badly needs.

“This is a charter for builders and truly irreversible damage is already under way. It is urgent that something is done about it.”

At the end of the 12-month transition period for local councils to prepare local plans in line with the National Planning Policy framework (NPPF) the CPRE is deeply concerned by the clear evidence that:

l the requirement to supply at least five years’ worth of “deliverable” sites for new housing is being used to push through unnecessary and damaging development in open countryside

l greenfield sites are being developed when suitable brownfield sites are available. New guidance should be produced by the Government to ensure that suitable and available brownfield land is used before greenfield sites

l localism is being undermined because councils have not been given enough time to get up-to-date local plans in place, and 75% of local authorities in a new survey said they would be cutting planning budgets, some by up to 50%

l threats to our countryside are urgent and real, and even affect those areas currently protected by the Green Belt. Councils who have so far failed to get a local plan in place – including Ribble Valley Borough Council – are now subject to the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” as contained in the NPPF.

Neil Sinden, CPRE’s Director of Policy and Campaigns, said: “The Government’s rhetoric is all about localism, but it is now clear that local communities are increasingly powerless to prevent damaging development even in the most sensitive locations.

“It is becoming clear that the reformed planning system is unable to deliver the development we need where it is needed while preventing damaging schemes in the wrong locations. We will be doing all we can to persuade the Government to think again.”

The CPRE has launched a “Save our Countryside” campaign asking members of the public to contact the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles. More information can be found on its website: www.cpre.org.uk