Telegraph – Four Treasury Official Worked on #NPPF – One Defra Official – and how many DCLG officials

This Telegraph Story is a week old

Four times as many civil servants from the Treasury as from the environment department worked on controversial new planning reforms, Labour claimed last night

Campaigners said the disclosures appeared to confirm fears that the Treasury hijacked the planning reforms over the summer to help boost economic growth, at the expense of protecting the environment.
Figures show that four officials from the Treasury were seconded to work on the development of the draft National Planning Policy Framework.

In contrast, a single official from the Department for the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs worked on the reforms.

The framework distils 1,300 pages of planning guidance into as few as 52, and writes into the rules a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, without defining clearly what it means.

Groups including the National Trust fear that this will give developers carte blanche to build on large parts of rural England and have been fighting the plans.

The Daily Telegraph has also launched a campaign urging ministers to rethink the proposals.According to Parliamentary answers, Richard Benyon, the environment minister, told MPs that just “one official led Defra’s engagement” with the Communities department over the changes “consulting a wide range of colleagues as necessary”.

Justine Greening, the then-economic secretary to the Treasury, said this month that “four HM Treasury officials were substantively involved in its [the NPPF’s] development”.

Last night Jack Dromey, the shadow planning minister, said: “With the economy stagnating and his austerity plan hurting but not working, George Osborne instructed his officials to rewrite the planning rules in a desperate bid for growth.“The result is a planning policy that will deliver chaos not growth and that puts the English countryside at risk.

”Neil Linden, a spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “The tone of the document reeks of the heavy hand of the Treasury.“We have been talking to Defra officials about how they can improve their contribution to the final drafting.”

In September Simon Marsh, one of the original architects of the NPPF, publicly turned his back on the policy.In an article in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Marsh, acting head of sustainable development at the RSPB, complained that the original proposals had been warped and changed by those in the Government “who don’t place a high value on the environment”.

The news came as it was claimed that more than 50 Tory-controlled councils are demanding changes to the NPPF.Waverley council in Surrey describes the NPPF as a “developers’ charter”.

When asked earlier about how many DCLG officials had been assigned to work on the practitioners draft the answer was zero – part from ‘secretarial support’.

One thought on “Telegraph – Four Treasury Official Worked on #NPPF – One Defra Official – and how many DCLG officials

  1. This accounts entirely for the lack of any reference to England, cities, urban areas and towns, and only token references to villages and countryside.

    Treasury just do not do “places” – the national economy – yes; regional economies – not really, except London and the South East and even then just as the location of successful sectors, such as financial and business services.

    Treasury don’t do city and town centres – even though these may be key drivers of the regional. sub-regional or local economy. They think that locating development in town centres is sub-optimising or even a barrier to growth. They can only think about productivity measured in terms of large is good for some firms – particularly the ones they listen to.

    They do not understand agglomeration economies, synergies of clusters, including benefits from critical mass, competition, complementarity, consumer choice, competitiveness of town centres. They just cannot get their heads round the economics of places.

    The bottom line is which is more important – a slight increase in productivity at the firm level, or economically-successful city and town centres. It should be a no-brainer. But it really depends how you think. They really ought to get out in the real world a bit more.

    Look what the “town centre first” policy has achieved over the last 15 years, despite about two-thirds of new retail floorspace completed having been built outside town centres. Billions of pounds were invested in revitalising our major city centres – we now need to tackle the next level – large and medium-sized towns before the supermarkets take all their trade out of town.

    That is retail – but what about offices? The so-called Impact Assessment gave the most ridiculous justification for not encouraging offices in town centres – the high level of rents in the West End of London – clearly whoever wrote it was the wrong kind of economist!

    Maybe the Treasury are just the wrong kind of economists!

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