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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Commenting on the government’s proposed changes to the planning system, Rick Hebditch, External Affairs Director at the National Trust, said:
“The planning system is not a barrier to a productive society, it is a key tool to help deliver one. We recognise the need to build more housing so we want to see every council with a local plan in place to deliver those homes. But local authorities have lost more than 40% of their planning team budgets in recent years so it will be hard for them to rise to this challenge while facing the threat of further sanctions with no offer of more support from central government.
“Local plans can also put local communities in the driving seat and facilitate good quality, well designed development in the right places. Today’s announcement on overriding councils and removing the planning approval process on brownfield land appears to do the opposite.
“The commitment to retain the Green Belt and prevent sprawl is, however, welcome.”
The National Trust today welcomed the Secretary of State’s decision to dismiss an appeal against a planning decision not to allow the building of six wind turbines in the setting of Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire by Roseland Community Windfarm.
Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire (National Trust/Andrew Butler)
We are pleased that Government has listened to our recommendations and agreed in principle to rule out some of our most treasured natural and historic landscapes by promising to ban fracking in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
Peter Nixon, National Trust Director for Land, Landscape and Nature, said: “Today’s announced plans by Government to ban fracking in sensitive areas represents a hugely important moment for the natural world and our wonderful landscapes.
“It would be a very dangerous gamble to expose these special places and wildlife that as a nation we love to a largely untested technology that only takes us further away from our climate change targets. We now need to continue to fight for strong regulation to protect our wider environment against the impacts of the shale gas industry.”
Read the Are we Fit to Frack? report, which we launched with Angling Trust, CPRE, RSPB, Salmon and Trout Association, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
and Wildlife Trusts, for more on our views.