Commenting on the publication of the CLG committee’s report today (Friday, April 1) on changes to the government’s controversial National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Ingrid Samuel, Historic Environment Director at the Trust, said:
“The changes to the NPPF are just one part of the biggest shake-up of planning since the NPPF itself was controversially introduced in 2012. We share the committee’s concerns about these further reforms. They’re too piecemeal, rushed and confusing so we welcome the call for a thorough, evidence-based review of the effectiveness of planning policy.
“We know from the big campaign over the NPPF that the public want a planning system that is able to deliver the homes we need but not by carelessly allowing our countryside to be sacrificed. So we’re particularly pleased that the committee is calling for a different approach on the small sites proposal and the housing delivery test which are particularly worrying.
“These two measures from DCLG could see the constant expansion of rural towns and villages into the countryside and developers being able to pick and choose more greenfield sites over brownfield. Some greenfield sites may be needed for housing but this has to be done through the Local Plan to protect the natural environment and avoid developers being able to bypass the local community.
“It’s important that the government gets any reform right rather than rushing into changes. The wording in the consultation was often high level and lacking in detail so ministers should listen to MPs and agree to consult again on the precise wording of changes to the NPPF. We look forward to working with DCLG to get the final wording right.”
“We are concerned and will be looking closely at the implications of what is being proposed.
“Green Belt prevents urban sprawl, keeping town and villages distinct and special, which is why we think it is important to maintain the protections it offers.
“We don’t have urban sprawl in England in the same way that other countries do because of our history of development planning, and the designation of Green Belts in particular, and we weaken that enduring protection at our peril.
“As a nation we need more houses and many of these can be built in cities. We should be aiming for sustainable growth, where we make the best use of available brownfield sites. Any release of undeveloped land for housing should be considered carefully, as a community prepares its local plan.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”