• Hugo Swire lobbied on damaging new planning laws

    1st August 2011 | News | Claire
  • The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is the biggest shake-up of planning law for decades and although it was published a few days ago, has already been heavily criticised by several environmental groups, such as the National Trust, The Campaign to Protect Rural England and Friends of the Earth.

    The Royal Town Planning Institute, which represents planning officers, has also spoken out against the document, which is built upon the basis of a default answer of ‘yes’ to development.

    The Government has condensed reams of detailed planning policy into 65 pages of vague planning statements.  You could drive a coach and horses through it.

    The new rules appear to mean that where there is a conflict the national plan takes precedence over the local strategy, and so successful appeals are highly likely.

    I am very concerned about the effect on the area I represent, which is mostly undesignated but stunning countryside, such as around Tipton St John, Alfington and West Hill.

    My concerns are:
    A new definition of ‘sustainable’ development which means the default answer must be ‘yes’

    Important countryside such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and wildlife sites have their protections weakened (P47/47)

    Apparently no protection for undesignated countryside (not National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, for example)

    Protection for the highest quality food growing land is weakened – at a time of great concern over future food scarceness and food security (P47).

    Developer and landowner profit must now be a material planning consideration (P11)

    The concept of Localism appears to be a myth, as communities are permitted only to ask for more development, not less

    It looks as though the Government has handed over the job of writing the NPPF to a team of developers who have come up with the softest set of planning policies imaginable.

    The justification for the NPPF is said to be to boost the economy. How is it good economics to cause a local authority to be so intimidated by the prospect of costly legal battles it approves environmentally damaging planning applications against its wishes?

    Areas that rely on beautiful countryside for tourism, such as East Devon, could be hugely affected over the next few years as visitors see their favourite destinations gradually despoilt by inappropriate development. 

    Although the NPPF is a draft document, it is now a material planning consideration and local long-term planning strategies must be directed by it, such as East Devon District Council’s already controversial Local Development Framework.

    This Government claims to be ‘green.’  If it wishes to measure up to the claim, it must abandon its disastrous planning proposals for policies that recognise the importance of the countryside, and actually seek to enhance it for present and future generations to enjoy.

    Mr Swire has promised to talk to Housing Minister, Grant Shapps about the issue.

    The more letters and emails Mr Swire receives on this issue, the more chance we have of getting this damaging plan radically changed.