National Trust statement on the government’s Housing White Paper

Ingrid Samuel, historic environment director at the National Trust, said: “We hope this White Paper is a sign that the Government is shifting away from blaming the planning system for the shortage of new housing, and is getting more resources into over-stretched council planning teams.

“Indeed, planning permission has been granted on land for more than a million new homes in the last five years, yet 600,000 new builds have been delivered over the same period. There is a clear need for the Government to change its focus to assist developers in building these homes, and to come up with new models if the industry cannot deliver.

“We’re also pleased that Ministers have put to bed rumours about a weakening of Green Belt protections, and are prioritising brownfield development. This should take place alongside a strengthened focus on heritage and good design, and continued protections for nature and valued landscapes from insensitive development. Good planning is key to finding the best places for new homes, pushing up housing quality, and securing community support.

“We will, however, be looking carefully at the Government’s formula for calculating housing needs. It would be a backwards step if it forces councils to allocate land in sensitive landscapes, and doesn’t make the most of more appropriate sites for housing elsewhere in the region.”

ENDS

National Trust and LGiU survey shows lack of democracy in local planning system

A survey of over 1,200 ward councillors in England, carried out by the Local Government Information Unit, and commissioned by the National Trust, reveals councillors’ view that the planning system works in the interests of developers over councils and local communities.

The survey found that:

  • Over half of councillors say that sites that are not in line with the Council’s plan are being approved for housing in their area;
  • There are also concerns about Green Belt release and the loosening of the planning system through the introduction of permitted development rights for home extensions, office to residential use conversion, barn conversions and other changes of use;
  • Councillors also have concerns about the under-resourcing of planning teams.

In debates on the future of the planning system the views of councillors are often overlooked – and yet, as local decision-makers, and an important link with local communities, they have an essential role to play in ensuring development is sensitive to the needs of an area.

Key survey findings

  • 72% of councillors say that the system is too weighted in favour of developers at the expense of local communities;
  • Half of councillors say sites that are not in line with the local plan are being approved for new housing;
  • Half of councillors believe planning departments are not adequately resourced;
  • 58% of councillors with Green Belt in their area think that their council will allocate Green Belt land for housing in the next five years;
  • The National Planning Policy Framework does not appear to be having the positive impact it was intended to have on design quality – with only 18% of councillors feeling design has improved since the NPPF was drawn up, and only 12% of councillors think that the loosening of planning restrictions has had a positive effect.

Housing White Paper

There are concerns the new Housing White Paper, expected later this month, could make matters worse, if it sets rigid housing numbers for local plans which don’t take account of local factors such as Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

As the Government puts the final touches to the Housing White Paper, the National Trust and LGiU hope that Ministers will take a number of sensible steps to improve the confidence that councillors have in the way the planning system works, including:

  • More resources for Local Planning Authorities to help get local plans in place;
  • Stronger Government backing for councils setting design standards;
  • A smart approach to meeting housing need which allows councils to recognise local constraints and focuses development in the most appropriate places.

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the LGiU, said: “The planning system is one of the fundamental pillars of local democracy, allowing communities to help shape the physical structure of the places they live. Councillors are the most important link between communities and that system. Our survey with the National Trust shows that many councillors feel that this democratic tool is at risk of being undermined.”

Ingrid Samuel, Historic Environment Director at the National Trust, said:“It’s now almost 5 years after the Government’s planning framework was adopted, so it’s worrying that councillors feel it hasn’t delivered the localism that was promised. If ministers are serious about Local Plans being at the heart of the planning system, then they should invest in council planning teams and use the Housing White Paper to give them the tools to deliver good quality housing in the right places.”

National Trust appoints specialists to protect Hardwick Hall

The National Trust has appointed landscape architecture specialists Cookson and Tickner to develop a proposal to mitigate HS2’s impact on Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, and to integrate the high speed rail line into the historic landscape.

An aerial view of Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire. The Hardwick estate is made of of stunning houses and beautiful landscapes.

An aerial view of Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire. Credit National Trust/John Miller. 

The appointment has been made following a competitive tender process conducted on behalf of the National Trust by the Landscape Institute, the Royal Chartered body for landscape architects. Continue reading

Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill – Queen’s Speech

Reacting to the announcement of Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill in the Queen’s Speech today Richard Hebditch, External Affairs Director at the National Trust said:

“It sounds like there could be some positive measures around neighbourhood planning in the new Bill, but overall we’re concerned that further reforms could create more confusion and uncertainty about what the rules are, and not solve the real problems with housing delivery.

“We’ll look carefully at proposals to restrict the use of planning conditions. Concerns about wildlife, archaeology, landscape and impact on communities will always have to be considered – that is what we have a planning system for. The best place to do this is as part of a planning application, rather than through using conditions. Government should be clear that if developers cannot address concerns about impacts on nature, heritage and green spaces, councils will be able to refuse applications.

“We’re worried that planning is becoming a service for developers rather than a balanced, independent process. There is a danger that that too often, planning permission can be pushed through – even where it goes against a council’s local plan. Even our finest landscapes and important green space like National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Green Belts are under pressure.”

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 Spending Review

The National Trust outlines below its response to the Spending Review announcements made today.

Richard Hebditch, External Affairs Director for the National Trust, said: “The Government’s commitment to ensure the new commercial model for English Heritage will have sufficient funding is very welcome, as is recognition of the importance of heritage, and Historic England, more generally. Within Defra’s budgets, we’re particularly pleased to see the protection of funding for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks and public forests. In the last Parliament, Nick Clegg also announced funding for Natural England to complete the England Coastal Path by 2020 but we have to see confirmation that that funding will continue – we trust it will.

“Though there has been good news in terms of some of DCMS and Defra’s settlements, we’re disappointed to see further reforms proposed for the planning system, on top of those proposed in the Housing and Planning Bill. Local council planning teams have been cut back by more than 40% in the last five years. Further changes to planning rules will place additional burdens on these teams, and risk destabilising the Government’s plans for good quality housebuilding.”

National Trust comments on CPRE report

A spokesperson from the National Trust said:

“There is a need for more new housing, and when it works well, our planning system can ensure this goes in the most appropriate locations, and that we build places people want to live in.

“This new research is concerning, because it suggests that inflexible targets mean that in some areas the local vision for development is being bypassed, with the best sites going undeveloped, whilst less suitable sites are approved. This is a problem we also identified in our 2014 report, Positive Planning. Government should ensure that local authorities are not penalised for setting ambitious targets for new housing, and keep its housing supply rules under review to ensure the Local Plan is sovereign.”