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 Without a Local Plan, or with an out of date plan, it seems that communities are at risk from speculative development mainly due the five year land supply rules.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 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 ‘brownfield first’ at the heart of the planning system

As the Communities and Local Government Select Committee launches an inquiry today into the National Planning Policy Framework the National Trust gives its reaction:

“The Communities and Local Government Select Committee played a key role in improving the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as it was being drafted, and so we’re pleased it will be looking at how these planning rules are being implemented and understood.

“The Government’s clear intention is to deliver a brownfield first approach and protect our Green Belt and special areas of countryside, yet this does not seem to be happening on the ground. Evidence we have gathered suggests some councils feel unable to prioritise brownfield site development and maintain their Green Belt, and two years on from the adoption of the NPPF, there are still only 52% of councils with an approved local plan in place. We will be sharing our concerns with the Committee, and hope its inquiry will help to solve this problem.”

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.”

Government planning policy puts England’s Green Belts at risk, suggests new research

A view of the valley parkland and beyond to the Bath skyline

Half of the councils in England with Green Belt land are preparing to allocate some of it for development whilst brownfield sites throughout the country are overlooked, suggests research published today by the National Trust.

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National Trust welcomes DEFRA’s plan for Catchment Based Approach in nation’s rivers

We welcome the announcement of the £1.6m funded Catchment Based Approach from DEFRA which recognises the need for us to work at a larger catchment scale and in partnership across government, conservation organisations and local communities. Managing our land and water carefully is vital not only to National Trust places which are dependent on the quality of the water environment for wildlife and people, but for wider landscapes and communities. The way that land and water is managed in one place can have a much wider impact elsewhere. Recognition of the need to work collaboratively to tackle the challenges of water pollution, flood risk and water availability for the benefit of all is a huge opportunity for freshwater conservation.

Stonethwaite Valley within Borrowdale

Stonethwaite Valley within Borrowdale

The National Trust has enshrined the principle of working at a catchment scale in ‘From Source to Sea’ which documents our approach in managing water as it flows through the catchment out to the coastal zone. With up to 43% of water in England and Wales draining through National Trust land we believe engaging at a larger scale is critical in delivering and influencing land and water management. We are already testing working at the catchment scale in places such as the Holnicote Estate where we are trialling practical land and water management measures to deliver positive outcomes from flood risk to habitat creation. We’re also involved in supporting community led catchment initiatives such as the Loweswater care programme where along with the West Cumbria Rivers Trust the National Trust is helping local community driven schemes to improve water quality. This is taking us in the right direction but the Catchment Based Approach could help to deliver on much wider scales to meet the ambition of River Basin Management Plans.

What is essential now in line with the Blueprint for Water response is that the detail surrounding the Catchment Based Approach be agreed and the delivery frameworks be put in place if this approach is to be fit for purpose and deliver truly collaborative partnership working. We would envisage the role of water companies as a critical part of this development.

Protection for Lyveden “one step closer” thanks to High Court wind farm decision

The National Trust is delighted that the legal challenge to the High Court has succeeded against a Planning Inspector’s decision to grant planning permission for four wind turbines near Lyveden New Bield in Northamptonshire. 

The turbines would have overshadowed Lyveden’s Grade I listed Elizabethan Lodge and garden, having a significant impact on its peaceful, historic setting.

Lyveden showing mast height

Picture of Lyveden New Bield showing the height of proposed masts

The legal challenge was brought jointly by the National Trust, English Heritage and the local planning authority, East Northamptonshire Council.

The development had been approved by the Planning Inspector on appeal after planning permission was initially refused by East Northamptonshire Council.

The Judge found that the Inspector failed to fulfil his statutory duty under section 66 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 which requires him to have special regard to the desirability of preserving the setting of heritage assets when making his decision on whether or not to grant planning permission. 

She also found that the Inspector didn’t properly apply and interpret the relevant planning policies on the effect the development would have on the setting of Lyveden New Bield and that the Inspector failed to give adequate reasons for his decision.

On leaving the High Court, Mark Bradshaw, the National Trust’s Property Manager at Lyveden New Bield, said: “We are delighted with the outcome.

“We hope this brings to an end a five-year battle to preserve and protect the important setting of some of our most significant heritage assets.

“Lyveden is of international importance. The harm to heritage assets like Lyveden should be weighed against the benefits of wind farms.”

Director-General of the National Trust, Helen Ghosh, said: “Lyveden is a remarkable building with a very particular spirit.  We are delighted that our visitors’ experience of its beautiful setting is now one step closer to being safeguarded”.

“Clearly every legal case is different but this is an important decision in the defence of the historic environment from inappropriate development.”

Lyveden New Bield

The beautiful setting of Lyveden New Bield

The result means that a fresh planning inquiry will need to be convened to re-consider the appeal against the original planning decision.

The National Trust continues to believe that there is a case for wind power in the nation’s energy mix, but each wind farm proposal should be appropriate in site and scale.

For further media information please contact Cat Philpott.

Lyveden New Bield is one of England’s oldest garden landscapes and features an unfinished Tudor garden lodge, steeped in Catholic symbolism. Work on Lyveden stopped suddenly in 1605 when its creator, Sir Thomas Tresham, died and his son became embroiled in the Gunpowder Plot. The Elizabethan moats, mounts and terracing have been restored and the orchard re-planted with period varieties. There is a 3D video tour of the landscape here.

National Trust calls for councils to be given more time to adopt local plans

New research suggesting that half (51 per cent) of councils in England will miss the deadline for adopting a local plan has prompted the National Trust to call for local authorities to be given more time to agree plans for their area.

When the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published on 27 March 2012, after a National Trust campaign to secure vital protections for land, local authorities were given 12 months to update and adopt their local plans to show where development should take place, for example to cope with predicted increases in population.[1]

However, new research by the National Trust and the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) suggests that over one quarter (26.8 per cent) England’s local planning authorities expect that it will take more than a year from now for their local plan to be adopted, just under one-fifth (17.5 per cent) within the next 6-12 months and 6.7 per cent after the deadline but within the next six months. [2]

Councils that fail to adopt a local plan by the end-of-March deadline will be subject to the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ in the NPPF.

This could mean an easy ‘yes’ for development proposals on the 55 per cent of England without national protection – that is land outside, for example, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or designated Green Belts. [3]

Without an extension to the deadline, communities the length and breadth of England could be at risk of unwanted speculative development on land that has not been identified for development, as developers seek to cash in on the planning loophole.

 “Speculative development is the polar opposite of good planning,”

said Peter Nixon, Director of Conservation at the National Trust.

 “The success of the National Planning Policy Framework depends entirely on local plans being adopted. This is why we suggested that councils should be given two years to adopt their plans. A perfect storm of council cuts, the loss of regional strategies and just 12 months to adopt new plans has been too much for many councils to bear.”

“Councils need more time to get their local plans in place to protect land from unwanted development and ensure communities get the developments they need, in the right places. Only in this way can development be genuinely sustainable.”

Jonathan Carr-West, LGiU Chief Executive, said:

“Planning is one of the most important but also one of the most contentious functions that local authorities perform. In a tough economic climate it’s really important to balance the role of development in driving growth with local needs and aspirations. There may be real tensions between the two. Local area plans provide a way of working through these tensions but it is not easy.”

 “It’s vital that we don’t put bureaucratic process ahead of the need for a real democratically founded local planning system. Local area plans that balance the need for growth with the needs of the community are worth waiting for.”

Malcolm Sharp, president of the Planning Officers Society, said a year’s transition period was not long enough to complete the local plan process.

“Planning authorities are being asked to do local plans, support neighbourhoods, put the community infrastructure levy in place and negotiate infrastructure delivery – it’s a big ask on them to keep all the balls in the air.”

Further research into the state of the planning system will be published by the National Trust and LGiU ahead of the anniversary of the NPPF at the end of March 2013.

For further information please contact Andrew McLaughlin in the National Trust press office on 07920 750 818.

Notes

[1] Local planning authorities must prepare a local plan which sets planning policies in a local authority area. These are very important when deciding planning applications. The process for producing a local plan should have fully involved everyone who has an interest in the document and they should have had the chance to comment. Local plans must be positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy in accordance with section 20 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended) and the National Planning Policy Framework.

[2] Concerned about the upcoming NPPF anniversary deadline, the National Trust commissioned the LGiU to survey local authorities on progress with their Local Plans, as well as the wider implications of the NPPF, the Localism Act and Neighbourhood Planning.  The LGiU received responses from just under one quarter (22.5 per cent) of the 337 planning authorities producing Local Plans.  Of these, over four-fifths (82 per cent) were in the process of completing their Local Plan.  This represents over one-third (35 per cent) of the 175 planning authorities without formally adopted Local Plans.  The survey was conducted between Wednesday 20 February and Friday 1 March 2013.

[3] Figures from CPRE research.

[4] In a speech to the Policy Exchange on 10 January 2013, Planning Minister Nick Boles MP, also flagged the risks of speculative development if local authorities failed to adopt local area plans. He said: “Councils which do not produce credible plans to meet local housing need will find that the presumption in favour of sustainable development will trump local decisions. And they will have to explain to local residents why their failure to produce a robust local plan exposed their communities to speculative development in places where it is not welcome.” Full text of speech by Nick Boles.

 [5] In February 2013 Inside Housing magazine obtained exclusive details from the Planning Inspectorate of the 185 councils in England yet to adopt an updated local plan.

National Trust bitterly disappointed at court ruling on Giant’s Causeway development

We’ve posted previously on our legal challenge to a decision to grant planing permission for a golf course development in the setting of the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site. Today the High Court ruled against our challenge.

A National Trust spokesman said:

“The National Trust is bitterly disappointed by the Court’s ruling and we remain convinced that a massive development in the setting of this World Heritage Site is wrong.

“We still believe that if a development of this scale does go ahead in this location, the message is that nowhere in Northern Ireland, no matter how important or protected, is safe from development.

“The ruling today has served to highlight aspects of very serious concern for those partners involved in the care and protection of the World Heritage Site.

“It is essential that we work together to get planning policy right in Northern Ireland to ensure that appropriate development can happen, but not at the expense of our beautiful landscapes and historic places. 

“There are also significant issues regarding the relationship between Government in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and UNESCO that must be addressed to ensure the protection of our World Heritage Site for the long term.”

ENDS

Saving our seas

Why the National Trust is backing the call for 127 Marine Conservation Zones

On Monday 25th February the National Trust will be joining with the Marine Conservation Society at their Westminster Rally, calling for the government to create a coherent and extensive network of Marine Conservation Zones. Phil Dyke, Coast and Marine Adviser for the National Trust takes up the story as to why the National Trust is backing the call for better protection of our most important marine environments:

The National Trust owns and manages over 700 miles of coastline around England, Wales and Northern Ireland on behalf of the nation. An ownership that includes important marine habitats that have long deserved recognition and protection by the state.

I was closely involved with the development of the Marine Conservation Zone project from 2007 and indeed the National Trust contributed to the early funding of the fledgling project in a belief that there was an urgent need in the UK to up our game on marine conservation. I also worked alongside the government and other NGOs on the development of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, a genuinely ambitious piece of legislation that brings with it both the tools to create MCZs and places a requirement on the administration to deliver.

A long view along the coast at Birling Gap, part of the Seven Sisters cliffs range, East Sussex

A long view along the coast at Birling Gap.

It can be hard to imagine what MCZs might look like (a sense that they are distant and under water) so for me it helps perhaps to focus on one special place that is up for designation as an MCZ and in which the National Trust has an important interest. This most iconic chalk cliff includes Beachy Head and the Severn Sisters. A geological and geomorphological wonderland where soft chalk cliffs give way to flinty beaches, rasping and rounding as the pebbles slide back and forth in the surf. At the bottom of the beach low tides expose tantalising glimpses of the chalk ledges that form the main feature of the MCZ; home to a host of marine wildlife and thrill to children of all ages enjoying some rock pooling. More than 300,000 people visit Birling Gap each year and get the chance to interact with this amazing and inspirational inshore marine environment – their MCZ.

In our view the creation of the Marine Conservation Zones is a long-awaited opportunity to give the amazing and, in every sense, vital coastal and marine habitats found at places like Birling Gap the same sort of protection that land based sites have enjoyed for decades. However we are concerned that the government, having worked through an exemplary stakeholder led process to identify these sites, is now back-tracking on the intention of the Marine and Coastal Access Act, and is not giving the waters around the English coast the protection they need.

The National Trust's responsibilities go beyond our boundaries.

The National Trust’s responsibilities go beyond our boundaries.

Birling Gap was originally one part of a proposed network of 127 MCZs recommended to government by the myriad of stakeholders that contributed to the MCZ project. But alas it seems now that the government’s ambition to create a representative network of MCZs in English waters is faltering. The Consultation now includes just 31 MCZs – less than 25% of the network envisaged. An increasing number of people from all the sectors that contributed to the MCZ project are asking the government to revitalise its ambition by creating a genuinely representative127 MCZ network.

Having requested and received the ‘best available evidence’ from stakeholders involved in the 4 regional MCZ projects, the government is now insisting on unrealistic levels of ‘best evidence’ before sites will be considered. By moving the goalposts only 31 of the 127 recommended MCZs (less than 25%) are currently out for consultation. Many of the 96 MCZs rejected are at immediate risk of deterioration and damage.

The National Trust’s view is that the government has a duty to require its agencies to use existing legal mechanisms to protect all 127 of these special marine places until formal designation as MCZ can be achieved. If we wait until all of the evidence is gathered and a lengthy designation process is implemented we risk damage to these underwater habitats and the creatures that call them home.

Close up of a young, female, grey seal basking on a beach on the Farne Islands in Northumbria

Effective legislation for the protection of our seas has never been so close, yet so threatened.