• Boles plans in question, for building willy nilly on Dartmoor

    25th February 2014 | News | Claire
  • Fortunately, it looks as though the bungling proposals may have been saved by Sarah Wollaston who has spoken out against them. Well done Dr Wollaston. Let’s hope he and his cabinet colleagues actually listen this time.

    Here’s the link (and story below) in today’s Western Morning News – http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Government-set-revise-national-park-house/story-20698048-detail/story.html#ixzz2uKsiWVZq

    Ministers could row back from plans to allow a development free-for-all on national parks amid an outcry from MPs.

    Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes, has led calls for the Government to revise plans to permit barn conversions without planning permission in protected areas, warning it could prompt a surge in “luxury” homes out of the reach of local people.

    In the House of Commons, Planning Minister Nick Boles said it was important to “think hard and listen to the arguments” before pushing ahead with the policy.

    Mr Boles, who grew up in Devon, indicated while converting agricultural buildings into homes in the wider countryside would be free from red tape,  national parks could instead be given guidance to look upon planning applications favourably.

    MPs argued the character of the 10 national parks – including Dartmoor and Exmoor – could be lost as the coalition sought to allow farmers to convert redundant buildings into a maximum of three properties.

    In her adjournment debate, Dr Wollaston said there are potentially 4,000 properties which could each be converted into three homes on Dartmoor.

    The former GP, who worked in rural Dartmoor for 21 years, expressed fears the changes could result in more second homes and luxury houses being built rather than much-needed affordable homes.

    The average house price within Dartmoor is more than £270,000, nine times the average local income, the MP said.

    In response to the debate, Mr Boles acknowledged the “very powerful and very persuasive arguments”.

    He told MPs: “The intention behind the proposed permitted development right is to bring forward more housing in land that is already developed and to make maximum use of the buildings our ancestors saw fit to build so we don’t have to put up any more buildings on green fields than is necessary to meet our housing and other needs.

    “But I recognise and the Government recognises national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty are called that for a reason.

    “They have a special status, it is a status we must respect and it is very important we think very hard and we listen to the arguments put to us about the appropriateness of this measure in those areas.

    “While I cannot anticipate the Government’s final position I can reassure (the House) the Government has heard these arguments loud and clear.”

    But he said it would still be “important to encourage national parks to be positive” about barn conversions.

    He said: “We may look at whether we can give a slightly stronger nudge to national park authorities in that guidance about being positive in their view, while nevertheless retaining the right to decide whether something should receive planning permission.”

    Dr Wollaston said critics were not asking to stop all development across national parks, only that bosses have “discretion to actually look on a case-by-case basis”.

    She said the changes would allow houses to be built that are almost twice the size of the space recommended for affordable homes, adding: “What we will see is development of larger properties and within areas of AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and the national parks, because this will affect all 10 of our national parks, I fear this will actually lead to the creation of more second homes and luxury homes rather than the affordable housing will need to breath life into our rural communities.”

    Former Conservative minister Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, had warned national parks are at risk of being damaged by “new haciendas and gin palaces”.