The Shocking Resistance to Progressive Planning Reform by the Traditionalist Environmental Lobby


Hasty planning reform

SIR – As a broad coalition of planning, heritage and environmental organisations, we are united in our vision for what is needed to deliver affordable, good-quality homes, while protecting our precious green spaces, and putting local people at the heart of decision-making.

The planning system needs careful, sensible reform rather than the major, hurried and untested changes set out in the Government’s planning White Paper, which is akin to demolishing the whole house just to mend the roof.

The planning system may not be perfect, but we urge the Government to rethink its White Paper, as it is not the answer to boosting economic growth post-coronavirus. Nine in 10 applications are already approved by councils, and the 10 biggest developers have more than 400,000 plots in their land banks. Hundreds of thousands of homes that could be built are not.

Ministers should invest in an evidence-led planning system that is empowered to meet the Government’s environmental, social and economic objectives.

Clare Blencowe
Chairman, Association of Local Environmental Records Centres

Dominic Dyer
Chief Executive, Badger Trust

Craig Macadam
Conservation Director, Buglife

Anita Konrad
Chief Executive, Campaign for National Parks

Neil Redfern
Executive Director, Council for British Archaeology

Dr James Robinson
Director of Conservation, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

Crispin Truman
Chief Executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England

Kate Gordon
Senior Planner, Friends of the Earth

Doug Parr
Policy Director, Greenpeace UK

Lizzie Glithero-West
Chief Executive, Heritage alliance

Kate Ashbrook
General Secretary, Open Space Society

Tanya Curry
Interim CEO, Ramblers

Vicky Wyatt
Director of Campaigns, SumOfUs

Hugh Ellis
Policy Director, Town and Country Planning Association

Kit Stoner
Chief Executive, the Bat Conservation Trust

Tony Gent
Chief Executive Officer, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

Ian Harvey
Executive Director, Civic Voice

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive, The Rivers Trust

The problem is not the roof but the foundations. We build half the houses we need to. We have no real plan to restore biodiversity or to plan for carbon neutrality. The current system is unique in the world, other countries using a zoning system do better on all fronts. The system doesn’t work for bugs bats or badgers. Rather it only works for suburbanite Nimbys – those who already have assets, it only works for other environmental assets as long as little as possible gets built. Is that your aim for the planning system, Lets look at your claims.

Nine in 10 applications are already approved by councils

And 9 out of a 10 developers wont apply for planning permission of they are advised they wont get it. If you have too little land zoned the percentage granted is irrelevant

The 10 biggest developers have more than 400,000 plots in their land banks. Hundreds of thousands of homes that could be built are not.

Separate issue that needs fixing, but again irrelevant to the main question, if you build more quickly you need to zone new land more quickly\.

Yes the reform,s are hasty and ill though through. yes all dirigiste planning reforms sweeping all before them (including 1948 by the way), have failed. But there are pathways to pragmatic reform which dont require everything to change at once, including permission in principle in major growth zones and getting simpler local plans approved more quickly. That will require copartnerhsip between central and local government and a long overdue realisation that this requires strategic planning. It is beyond the skillsm resource sand powers of small local authorities to meet the housing and infrastructure gap.

Lets looks at the evidence. What do all of the countries that build more and better have in common – zoning and form based design codes. What do the best large housing areas in the UK have in common – design codes. There the evidence. What do all of the areas that need growth but build too little have in common, lack of strategic plans and excessive influence of purely negative campaign groups such as the CPRE. Where are the countries that have most success in reversing biodiversity loss – the Netherlands and Austria which have comprehensive landscape scale zoning plans for natural restoration. We have 70 years of evidence.