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.
The National Trust has joined forces with charities across the UK this week to call for the protection and celebration of Britain’s treasured landscapes.
With ongoing speculative development in and around sensitive areas, such as National Parks and AONBs, the group of 27 organisations believes that it is vital for future government policy and funding to reflect the extraordinary value of landscapes.
Common heather, Bell heather and Western gorse lining the coastal path on the Great Hangman with the Little Hangman, Devon. National Trust Images/David Noton
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.”