Cameron Says Countryside Tories should Stop Protesting Planning Reforms


Countryside Tories should stop opposing the Coalition’s controversial planning reforms because the changes will allow their children to get ahead in life, David Cameron has suggested.

The Prime Minister said that the changes to the planning system will allow people to “achieve their dream of home ownership”.

The boost in the number of housing developments beginning as a result of the new planning rules will help to create a “socially mobile opportunity society”, Mr Cameron added.

His comments came after he last week said that he agreed with comments made by Sir John Major, the former Prime Minister, who warned that there has been a “collapse in social mobility” in Britain.

Mr Cameron’s remarks will anger countryside campaigners, who say that the changes have led to unwanted development on some of Britain’s most precious rural landscapes.

Councils which fail to adopt local plans setting out where building can take place are at risk from developers.

Opponents have warned that the Coalition’s changes have led to “poor quality developments” being “plonked down on green fields” despite local opposition.

The Prime Minister appeared to dismiss the concerns of rural Tories across England who believe that green belt and green field sites are coming under increasing threat because of the reforms.

Asked what he would say to Tory voters who will refuse to vote for the Conservatives because of their concerns over planning, Mr Cameron said: “I think that planning reform is important.

“It’s important that we build more houses because the average age of the first-time buyer has crept into the 30s and I believe in a socially mobile opportunity society where people can achieve their dream of home ownership.”

Mr Cameron indicated that if campaigners look at the new rules “in the round”, they will see that they benefit Britain.

“I think that when you look at our planning reforms in the round you will see that [with] the arrival of local plans, the arrival of neighbourhood planning you’re actually going to see more local choice and discretion,” Mr Cameron added. “But I think the planning system was in need of reform.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England on Monday night said that Mr Cameron should “take off his rose-tinted spectacles and see what is really happening to [the countryside].

Shaun Spiers, the groups chief executive, said: “House building is slowly increasing because the market is picking up, but the only difference planning liberalisation has made is that houses that would have been built in towns and cities, aiding urban regeneration, are now sprawling into the countryside instead.

“David Cameron needs to take off his rose-tinted spectacles and see what is really happening to it – not local choice and discretion, but far too many poor quality developments plonked down on green fields in the teeth of opposition from local people.”

Mr Spiers said that the Prime Minister must “get a grip of his Government’s planning reforms before more countryside is lost unnecessarily”.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, on Monday said that he is “very alert to how strongly” people feel about the new planning guidelines.

He claimed that the Government has “entrenched and maintained the protection for development on the green belt”.

Mr Clegg said: “We have to build more homes but we mustn’t of course throw the baby out with the bathwater as far as the green belt is concerned and where we can, always exploit the opportunity to build more homes on brown field sites.”

Nick Boles, the planning minister, has previously admitted that reforms to the planning system could cost the Conservatives votes at the next election.

Why Large Commuter Villages are the ‘Planning Anarchy’ Frontline

From the remarks by Micheal Hepburn in the excellent ‘Unplanned England’ article in Planning last week it would seem like many in the consultancy business would not be unhappy if local plans went away altogether.

He said the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) provided adequate tests in terms of sustainability and design to ensure that quality remained high even for unallocated development, and added that the pre-application engagement and consultation process as well as the formal planning process gave councils and communities “plenty of scope” to have some control over such schemes. “The last thing we want is for people to think that development outside an adopted plan is automatically poorer quality.

Indeed it is not. However that doesn’t mean it is the right development in the best location.  We should be careful though is scouring the biggest appeals for urban extensions.  Many of these sites would come forward for development anyway, if not in the next local plan the one after that, or the one after that.  Public outrage per-se is not to be taken as good evidence of policy failure, after all housing will always be controversial and lack of public buy in to an appeal led system is an issue of political legitimacy not one of necessarily of poor planning outcomes.  Nor should any infrastructure gap be insuperable.  You can always block development by saying their is insufficient infrastructure and the current approach of the government is to build the housing first and then have parents desperate for school places, or doctors filling the shortage of primary care, to come along later and build free schools or surgeries using new homes bonus funding on developer supplied land.  A non planning approach that always delivers too little infrastructure too late, but at least it delivers some.

Rather I think for examples of where the NPPF is failing is to loom at where a disproportionate amount of development is proposed when there are better alternatives, better alternatives that can’t be considered under the NPPF.

Where developers are now targeting now they have optioned out every urban extension potential site is large popular commuter villages.  Arguably these places have received too little development in recent rounds of local plans.  Villages with populations of over 2,000 within 5 or 10 miles of a larger employment centre, with good a or b road connections or a rail link, with good schools capable of expansion , some shops and services and a bus link.  These will tick the minimum sustainability standards of the NPPF.

These villages often had lpost war estates built of poor quality and this led naturally to hostility to developement, and many local plans/core strategies have focussed development on urban extensions or have dispersed strategies.  The problems with these is deliverability.  large urban extensions often have infrastructure prerequisites with long lead in times.  Whilst spreading development across dozens of villages is often impractical as you cant build have a form entry onto a primary school.

Classic examples of such villages are Feniton in Devon and Tattenhall and Hartford in Cheshire.  The last having 350 houses allowed on recovered appeal.   Some of these villages have proposals to increase their size by 30%, 50% or more in one fell swoop.  A more reasoned expansion over a plan period would be more like 15% to cover natural household growth plans a small premisum of 5% or so if a village was to absorb some growth from smaller villages where it si impractical.  Such a rate of growth, of one percent a year or so in population terms over a 15 year plan can be absorbed organically across multiple sites and not have the appearance of a suburbanised estate.  It is impossible to make any estate of more than a couple of dozen houses appear ‘rural’ and a natural part of a village.

A very simple change to the NPPF could accommodate this.  Simply requiring the scale and pace of development in a village to be appropriate to a villages size and character.


Two Inspectors Say You Can’t Adopt Allocations Plans Without Gypsy Sites

Chorley and South Ribble , the South Ribble partial report is not yet completed.  Both Inspectors said they would only issue partial reports because of the lack of Gypsy and Travellers sites and lack of an up to date evidence base on the issue.

So if you have delayed allocating G&T sites or have a comprehensive plan without them, increasingly the norm recently, you are likley to be stuffed.