MPs brand planning reforms a threat to the countryside

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) today welcomed the call by a cross-party committee of MPs for 'significant changes' to improve the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) today welcomed the call by a cross-party committee of MPs for ‘significant changes’ to improve the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). These suggested changes reflect many of CPRE’s aspirations for the final policy.

Kate Houghton, Planning Officer at the CPRE, says, ‘This report shows a strong cross-party consensus that the role of planning is to treat economic, environmental and social needs equally, not to favour short term economic growth at any cost. The Government must now make substantial changes to its proposed planning policies if we are to get the efficient, locally oriented and environmentally sensitive system we believe Ministers want.’

In the report the MPs:

 call the document ‘unbalanced’ in favour of economic growth alone and call for the removal of a proposed default ‘yes’ to all new development; state that the Government’s proposed ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ could undermine local plans;  call for a stronger definition of sustainable development, based on the UK ’s Sustainable Development Strategy; and highlight the ‘inevitable risk’ of more countryside being lost in the absence of a clear policy of developing brownfield (previously developed) sites before greenfield .

The draft NPPF, consulted on during the summer, sparked major interest and controversy, with over 14,000 public responses. Despite this, Ministers have said they do not propose to hold a second consultation in 2012. The MPs see a strong case, however, for a further short consultation with planning practitioners.

The MPs also criticise the ‘unhelpfully vague’ wording of the draft document. The Government claimed that condensing over 1,000 pages of current policy to just 52 would provide simplicity and clarity. The MPs instead conclude that the draft NPPF ‘does not achieve clarity by its brevity.’

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Kate Houghton concludes, ‘We all want to see a return to a healthy economy. The Government will not achieve this by putting the countryside at risk of poor quality development and undermining cities by allowing greenfields to be built on before brownfield land. The Committee's conclusions are considered and well-informed and we urge the Government to respond positively. Otherwise we risk returning to the unsustainable development of a generation ago, when an area of countryside three times the size of Stevenage was built on each year.’

Kevin FitzGerald, Hon. Director CPR Hertfordshire adds, ‘This is good news especially for Hertfordshire which has so much very attractive, but unprotected countryside.’