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 Without a Local Plan, or with an out of date plan, it seems that communities are at risk from speculative development mainly due the five year land supply rules.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

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.