The National Trust has gone all guns blazing at the NPPF, by far the most anti-press release so far, they have even mounted a petition and campaign.
Planning is for people, not for profit
For decades our planning system has protected much loved places from harmful development. The Government’s reforms turn this on its head, using it as a tool primarily to promote economic growth instead.
We believe in growth – but not at all costs. Planning for people combines long-term growth with other important things like local character and space to breathe, tranquillity and beauty. We need a system that serves all our interests, from commerce to communities.
The Government’s reforms fail this test- they need to stop and think again.
Why do we care?
The Government’s planning reforms, could lead to unchecked and damaging development in the undesignated countryside on a scale not seen since the 1930s.
New plans published by the Government contains a core presumption that the default answer to development will be ‘yes’.
We are deeply concerned that the Government’s proposals allow financial considerations to dominate, which could result in a green-light for poor quality or development in the wrong place, threatening the local places valued by you, while failing to deliver wider benefits to your community.
The National Trust is an applicant in the planning system, and also speaks up, for and against, development proposals put forward by others. We know from our own experience that new development can combine economic benefit with great results for people and the environment.
We call on the Government to ensure that the economic, environmental and social benefits of development go hand in hand and that in the future it will not become possible to see damaging development pushed through on narrow economic ground alone.
Help us to send a message to Government that planning is for people not for profit.
Last week its chairman Simon Jenkins gave a speech on the issue, deeply ironic as he together with Ferninand Mount was one of the key influences on the ideology of localism in planning.
The government is now attempting to [the] nuances [of planning] with peculiar brutalism. … The Government wants to delegate power and yet to retain control, at least over big projects. It is persuaded, on the basis of nothing but assertions of the development lobby, that local planning is a bar to growth. It wants to liberate local decision, but not if that decision might be conservationist. It wants to steer the planning regime towards building and against countryside conservation.
The giveaway is clause 124 in the localism bill. This privileges ‘local financial considerations’, to promote ‘a presumption in favour of sustainable development’. The word sustainable is here vacuous. This is a direct reversal of the past presumption AGAINST the development of countryside land.
This is enhanced by the leaked draft of the national planning policy framework. Here paragraph 19 states that “the government’s clear expectation is that we move to a system where the default answer to development is yes” except where it would compromise “key sustainable principles”. These principles are vacuous and again left unstated.
The presumption in favour of development states that, where local authorities have failed to put a plan in place, permission will be assumed. This is a pretty blunt attempt to force local authorities to make plans aiding development, at the same time as their experienced planning teams are being cut. …This is mad. It runs completely counter to authorities having a current duty to balance overall considerations if the plan is in any way unclear. It is an extremely worrying development.
All this is sloppy language and sloppy legislating. The planning framework document appears to be commendably short, but this leaves much more open to interpretation. Combine this with the presumption in favour of building, and you have a document clearly written at the direction of building and development lobbies and the Treasury. It constitutes a clear presumption for any development, even if the green belts are protected. It is the sort of planning you get in a banana republic, where local corruption and pressure is all. There is ample scope for local neighbourhood plans to reflect the will of the landowner with the deepest pockets.
..the so-called freeing up of local planning is reckless and blatantly hostile to the protection of the rural landscape, vistas, views and coastline. … It is pernicious. It is not a planning bill but a money bill.
We just cannot let rural England suffer the same blizzard of uncontrolled building as it saw in the 1930s and 1950s. Do we really stand on the South Downs and gaze over Rottingdean, Saltdean and Peacehaven and congratulate our grandfathers on their wise planning? Do we really look out from the Cotwolds towards Gloucester and say, what the Severn valley really needs is for Gloucester to be joined to Cheltenham and Worcester in a Severn Vale metropolis? This is precisely what the localism bill implies.
…localism on its own is not enough. The trust is a national organisation, with a national purpose. We interpret localism therefore as providing ‘freedom within a framework’. You don’t ensure the protection of special places by tearing up the rulebook. Rather, you set out clear expectations, aiming to supply as much freedom as possible as to how those expectations might be met.
The National Planning Policy Framework, which we are now expecting to see next week, needs to be revised to set a new tone of voice. It should start from some sense of spirit of place, NOT spirit of pecuniary gain. We can’t plan for change unless we know what we’ve already got, defined by the people who know and care about each place.
The Government is right to want to reconnect people with local decisions and empower them to take control of what happens in their communities. It is right to subject that control so some overriding societal interest. But it has not yet formulated a credible framework for such override. And framework there must be if anarchy is not to occur.
I hesitate to suggest that county structure plans did at least offer such a framework. But the presumption against development did….
..this process cannot be anarchic, or developer led. It must be plan-led, and the plan must embrace both present and future needs for open space and countryside. It must seek to identify explicitly what we mean by beauty in landscape.
Both I and the Trust are seriously worried at what is being proposed by the coalition government. It is a repeat of our experience with forests and the attempted dismantling of the heritage quangos. A commendable attempt to clear decks and get down to basics is hijacked by lobbyists for their own gain. As so often under the present government. ministers inexperienced in the ways of power, fail to see the consequences of what they propose. We intend to make them see.