National Trust welcomes CLG committee report into government’s planning reforms

 

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.”

National Trust response to proposed relaxation of planning protections for the green belt

Further to the relaxation of planning protections for the green belt proposed yesterday by the government, the National Trust said:

“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.”

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.”

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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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.”

Local power in wind farm planning is step in the right direction

This week’s announcement by government that local people are to get a stronger voice over planning decisions on wind farms is an important step in the right direction.

We have long advocated the need for a robust planning system that values the opinions of local people and gives them a say on what type of developments they want and need for their own communities. And this move by government towards engaging and empowering communities in decisions around renewable technology is really important.

View along the Whitehaven coast, Cumbria towards wind turbines ©National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

View along the Whitehaven coast, Cumbria towards wind turbines ©National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

The National Trust believes in the need to grow cleaner, greener energy to tackle the damaging effects of fossil fuels on our environment and wellbeing. That is why we have pledged to generate 50 per cent of our energy from renewables, including biomass, solar and hydro technologies, by 2020 . It is also why it is important that this move does not signal a major backward step in the government’s commitment to expanding renewables. Fewer renewables to be replaced by any anticipated bonanza in fracked shale gas would be a serious blow to the Coalition’s low carbon credibility and do nothing to help us all tackle climate change.

We also believe there is a place for well-sited, well-designed wind technology as part of a mix of renewable energy schemes, but that this should not be at any cost.

So we welcome the communities and local government minister Eric Pickles’ statement this week, in which he says: “Meeting our energy goals should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location.” And also his strong support for clear policies in local plans which will ensure that “impacts from wind farms developments, including cumulative landscape and visual impact, are addressed satisfactorily.”

As a leading conservation organisation, we have a duty to protect beautiful places for ever, for everyone and believe that great care needs to be taken in the siting of any renewable technology, wind included, to ensure that the special character of our most sensitive places and landscapes is not compromised.

Long overdue is a national debate and then clear plan – organised by regions – which aims to set out where large scale renewable technologies could be located. This would take so much of the understandable heat out of the current situation where scattergun and speculative approaches to, for example, wind farm development are creating incessant pressures on some local landscape and their communities. The best development proposals engage local people early and help them take part proactively in the what, where and how of any major interventions.

While this week’s announcement has prompted concerns that higher incentives from wind farm developers to communities might lead to distorted planning decisions – and it is important that the government ensures this does not happen – there is a need to recognise the benefits that can be gained from energy providers working with local people on developing models for sharing the dividends of local, community renewables.

We support the principle of local energy tariffs, where communities which host schemes can benefit from access to cleaner, less costly heat and power. Our new energy partner, Good Energy , is already a pioneer in this approach, and we are working with them in exploring how our new hydro schemes, for example at Hafod y Llan in Snowdonia , might embrace this concept of local, mutual advantage.

By Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director