New report shows that planning policy needs to put people and places first

Reacting to the publication today (16 December 2014) of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on the operation of the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF), Richard Hebditch, assistant director of external affairs at the National Trust, said: “The National Trust welcomes the findings of this cross-party report. The Government needs to tackle loopholes in the NPPF which mean it is too open to challenge from ‘streetwise’ developers.

“The Committee’s findings are the latest in a growing body of evidence that the NPPF is allowing developers to ignore the local communities it said would be at the very heart of its new approach. New National Trust research shows that even where a council has a local plan in place, these are being challenged by developers.

“The Government’s planning rules need revising so that they put people and places first.”

£5 million pledged to England coast path

Runners taking a break on the South West Coast Path, Studland, Dorset.

Runners taking a break on the South West Coast Path, Studland, Dorset. Credit National Trust images, Chris Lacey.

 

As the Government announces a further £5 million will be committed to speeding up the creation of the coastal path around England, Simon Pryor, Natural England Director at the National Trust, gives his reaction to the news:

“Millions of us visit the English coast every year and we have a deep and strong emotional connection with the coastal places that we cherish.

“This financial back-up of the commitment to open up access to the coastline of England by 2020 continues the journey which has led to better rights of way, and the creation of national trails and National Parks.

“An all England coastal footpath will mean that people can see old favourites anew and connect with a part of the country that has shaped our national identity.”

The National Trust looks after 742 miles of coast in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including one in three miles of the South West of England coast and five miles of the White Cliffs of Dover.

Summary of National Trust evidence on NPPF to DCLG Select Committee

In many places, the NPPF is not yet leading to plan-led development. Only 54% of Local Planning Authorities have a Local Plan, and the Local Plan adoption rate has slowed since the new Planning Framework was adopted.

Planning balances the interests of the nation as a community with those of individuals – and Local Plans should be at the heart of the planning system. Without a Local Plan, or with an out of date plan, it seems that communities are at risk from speculative development mainly due the five year land supply rules.

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National Trust response to Efra Committee’s winter flood report

We’re disappointed that this report overlooks the valuable contribution that natural processes can make to reducing flood risk.

We know from this experience that policy and funding should work with natural forces to slow water down, and use land upstream as a sponge to retain water. As we pointed out to the Committee, managing water ‘from source to sea’ in this way helps to avoid flood risks to communities downstream, in a cost effective way. Maintenance of flood defences and watercourses will always be a part of the solution, but we regret that the Committee has not considered the fuller picture of how flood risk for rural communities can be managed effectively.

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National Trust responds to Government initiatives to help build more new homes on brownfield land

Ingrid Samuel, National Trust historic environment director, said:

“We have called for state investment to get difficult brownfield sites ready for development, and so we welcome moves in this direction from Government – and the clear recognition from the Chancellor of the need to protect valued countryside. There are many sites in urban areas, close to existing jobs and transport links which communities would like to develop ahead of countryside sites though their Local Plans, but developers currently deem them unviable due to additional costs.

“As with any development, care should be taken to ensure new homes on brownfield land respect local heritage and biodiversity, are well designed, with access to green space and good transport links, and that affordability needs are considered. The detail of any proposed changes will need to make sure that local communities, through the planning process, can ensure these needs are properly considered.”

Putting people at the heart of planning – National Trust reaction to Farrell Review

See below for the reaction from the National Trust to the report published today by Sir Terry Farrell (you can read the full report via http://www.farrellreview.co.uk/download):

Ingrid Samuel, Historic Environment Director, said: “Sir Terry’s report is very compelling. We hope it will lead to a new recognition of the importance of beauty and the spirit of a place in new developments, and ensure that fewer inappropriate schemes get the go-ahead.

“It is crucial that, when we are planning new housing and other buildings in a community, we start from an understanding of what people love and value about that place, and ensure any new development is sympathetic to the local context it sits in.

“We hope that many of the Review’s practical solutions will be taken forward by Government, including his call for proactive planning for design, reducing VAT on retrofitting, and appointing design experts at central and local level.”

National Trust – concerns remain around the Lobbying Bill

Yesterday, MPs debated the Lobbying Bill. Although it passed second reading, there were a good number of Parliamentarians who voiced their concerns about Part II of the Bill. Below we note the National Trust’s concerns and our desire for a thorough rethink of Part II of the Bill as it passes through the next stages in Parliament.

The National Trust supports greater transparency but we believe significant changes are needed to achieve an approach which improves transparency and accountability without undermining the positive role that charities play in enabling informed public policy debate. The Government has given verbal reassurances but these need to be backed by material changes if they are to remove uncertainty.

The National Trust has a long pedigree of involvement in public policy. Earlier in our history we worked in partnership with others in calling for the creation of National Parks. This resulted in a the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, a piece of legislation that over the years has protected and promoted access to many of the nation’s most loved landscapes. In the 1930s we promoted changes to allow the acceptance of historic assets in lieu of inheritance tax, which enabled the transfer into public ownership of many places of historic interest and architectural beauty for the enduring enjoyment of all.

More recently the National Trust’s Planning for People petition, calling on the government to think again on their reforms of the planning system, garnered more than 200,000 signatures from concerned members of the public. We also supported calls for a rethink on the future of the public forest estate; challenged the government to be braver in designating Marine Conservation Zones; have been involved in recent judicial reviews around the impacts of planning proposals which we believe have unacceptable detrimental impacts for places in our care; and have been working with others within and beyond the charity sector in promoting more opportunities for children to enjoy the benefits of playing outdoors and in nature.

We do all of the above in pursuit of our duty, described under our various Acts of Parliament, for promoting the permanent preservation of places of natural beauty and historic interest, and want to be confident that we are able to continue to do so.

Analysis by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, backed by legal opinion, shows that the Bill’s imprecision creates too many hostages to fortune. The Electoral Commission, which will have greater regulatory responsibilities under the new legislation, has also openly stated concern about how it will be wide open to interpretation and could impact the work of charities.

This is why we are backing calls by the NCVO for a careful rethink on Part II of the Bill.

A spokesman said: “Whilst we entirely support the intent of greater transparency, the Bill before Parliament is perplexing because it is entirely unclear in defining what is, and what is not, political lobbying.

“Significant changes are needed to ensure that we can be confident in a system which promotes transparency without undermining the positive role that organisations like the National Trust play.

“Charities play an important role in engaging citizens and politicians in informed policy debate around the charitable cause for which they stand. The Government has given verbal reassurances that this wont be undermined, but these reassurances need to be backed by material changes if they are to remove uncertainty from the Bill.”