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Government committee slams national planning reforms

Tuesday, 15 November 2011 0 Comments by Claire

(From http://www.parliament.uk)

MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee have written to the Prime Minister to express concerns about the ‘unsatisfactory’ wording of the Government’s new national planning policy framework (NPPF) – and to call for a clearer definition of sustainable development.

Chair of the Committee, Joan Walley MP, said:

“As it currently stands the new planning policy framework appears contradictory and confusing.  It pays lip service to sustainable development without providing a clear definition, potentially leaving future planning decisions open to legal challenges.”

The NPPF must include an up-to-date definition that makes it clear that a ‘sustainable development’ should not breach environmental limits (on water use or waste disposal, for instance), according to the committee.

Joan Walley MP added:

“There are environmental limits to how much development any one area can sustain and the Government should acknowledge this in the final draft of the NPPF.

If the new planning framework protects our greenbelt and countryside, as the Government claims, then there should be no problem in defining sustainable development more clearly to avoid misinterpretation.”

MPs also highlight a number of other concerns raised in evidence submitted to their inquiry. The NPPF:

- replaces the target for 60 % of development to be on brownfield sites with an ambiguous new requirement for development to be on sites with least environmental value regardless of previous use.
- weakens the protection of the green belt, according to legal advice obtained by the CPRE
- weakens the town centre first policy that was supposed to create viable town centres, according to the Town and Country Planning Association
- could lead to urban sprawl and more car journeys according to the National Trust and the Campaign for Better Transport

This report, very welcome indeed in my view, adds an official voice to the growing chorus of dissent in Government.  Many MPs are unhappy with the framework but few have spoken out against the plans, which place economic growth as a priority over environmental and social considerations.

Today, National Trust Chief,  Dame Fiona Reynolds meets the Prime Minister, who is reportedly hoping to ‘win her round’ to his view. 

I seriously doubt that this will happen.  Dame Fiona has presided over a mammoth campaign against the proposals, along with dozens of other groups, determined that an unaltered or only slighly altered National Planning Policy Framework should become planning legislation.

I have met with my MP, Hugo Swire about the issue, and also written to him a number of times about the effect the proposals would have on East Devon.

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