• Half of England councils at risk as Black Wednesday looms

    6th March 2013 | News | Claire
  • More than half of the country do not have the protections in place to prevent developers trying to build where they like ahead of new planning rules come into force later this month, according to official figures.

    Figures show that 52 per cent of councils in England have still not yet adopted local plans which allow communities to set out clearly where building can take place.

    Instead they will have to use the new National Planning Policy Framework, which is biased towards “sustainable development”, when assessing planning applications, which campaigners say will leave them at risk of “damaging development”.

    On Monday, campaigners the Campaign to Protect Rural England called for the Government to delay the introduction of the rules, called the National Planning Policy Framework, to give councils more time to prepare.

    The National Planning Policy Framework, which sets planning guidance for councils to follow, comes into force on March 27. Councils have been given a year by the Government to develop and adopt new local plans which set out where building can take place.

    In council areas without a local plan, communities will find it difficult to stop applications to build anywhere as long as they application is compliant with the NPPF.
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    Of those 161, 77 have submitted or published plans, while 98 – 29 per cent of the total figure – have not even published their local plans.

    Last night the CPRE called on the Government to delay the introduction of the new planning rules by a year to give local authorities more time to prepare.
    When the NPPF was unveiled in last March’s Budget – after a fierce campaign from countryside groups – Chancellor George Osborne gave councils a 12 month “transitional period” to prepare for the new rules.

    Neil Sinden, Policy and Campaigns director at the CPRE, said ministers should extend this deadline to prevent “a rash of damaging development”.

    He said: “When the reforms were introduced the Government included a transitional period, recognising it would take some time for local councils to get their plans in line with the new policies.
    “Asking councils to do this in twelve months, in the context of resource cuts and wider reforms, was always going to be a tall order.

    “And it is now clear that just over half will not have a plan in place by the March 27 deadline.

    “The consequence of not having an adopted plan is likely to be increasing numbers of applications decided by appeal by national inspectors instead of on the basis of locally agreed plans.

    “This could not only result in sporadic and poorly planned development, but further delays to the planning process as well. This is the opposite of the localist approach to planning the Government has promoted since its election.”

    Mr Sinden called on planning minister Nick Boles to extend March 27 by “another 12 months and ideally 18 months”.

    He said: “An extra year would therefore allow a significant proportion of councils to get their plans in place. This will help ensure that local people have a say on what development happens in their area.”
    The call for a delay was backed by Clive Betts MP, who chairs the Communities and Local Government select committee.

    He said: “I would ask them urgently to review the situation. Where authorities can demonstrate they are making real efforts to get plans in place, then the Government should extend the deadline and give them more time to get fully adopted.”

    The Communities and Local Government department said that it would not extend the deadline because it would “discourage the remaining councils from producing up to date Local Plans”.

    Planning Minister Nick Boles said: “The CPRE’s figures are misleading. Seven out of ten local councils now have published Local Plans compared to two out of ten previously, and there is good progress across the remainder.

    “Up to date Local Plans provide certainty to both local residents and local firms, and we have offered councils a range of practical assistance to help them get up to speed.

    “There are strong protections in place for the Green Belt, open countryside and areas of outstanding natural beauty when considering planning applications against the planning framework as a whole.”

    The Telegraph led a Hands Off Our Land campaign last year, ahead of the announcement of the changes at last march’s Budget.