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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

National Planning Policy: The Government Has Listened With One Ear



New planning rules, published today by the Government, are an improvement on the discredited draft produced last year but still represent a green light for developers – that’s the initial reaction of Cambridge Past, Present & Future (CambridgePPF), the charity that lobbies to positively influence local planning developments.

“The Government has listened with one ear,” said CambridgePPF Chairman, Robin Pellew. “It has selectively heard some of the criticisms of the original draft, but the overall bias in favour of development is still there.”

The team at CambridgePPF is reviewing the new framework in detail but listening to Greg Clark’s statement in the House of Commons, the team drew the following conclusions:

“We welcome a more balanced definition of sustainable development that includes consideration of social and environmental effects but the pro-growth distortion is still there.”

"Because of the economic situation, we are unlikely to see a tidal wave of speculative new schemes but there is no doubt the goal-posts have still been moved. Local communities, Residents Associations, and civic organisations such as CambridgePPF will need to be even more vigilant to ensure that development is located in the right places and of the highest quality. In time, we are likely to see more developers targeting sites that are inappropriate for building, for example in the Green Belt areas to the edge of the City, on playing fields, and in attractive open countryside areas. Local Authorities will be minded to refuse planning permission, but the new regulations may encourage developers to appeal against such refusals. This will mean that many large-scale, contentious schemes could ultimately be decided centrally by the government's Planning Inspectorate who, when applying the new rules, may be more likely to overturn the decision of the Local Authority. "Planning by Appeal" is not only contrary to local democracy, it also flies in the face of the government's drive for localism and giving local communities greater say in planning their future."

CambridgePPF welcomes the re-iteration of using brownfield land first, greater protection for heritage sites and the environment, and reducing the garden grabbing effect – all important aspects in Cambridge. It is also pleased that the purpose of the Green Belt to prevent urban sprawl has been endorsed. However, Local Authorities are encouraged to review the boundaries of their Green Belts as part of the local planning process. And CambridgePPF remains concerned that open countryside, not already designated for protection, still remains vulnerable to development.”

“Late last year we were concerned that the immediate imposition of these new rules would lead to a building free-for-all”, added Robin Pellew.  “We called on the Government to give a transition period sufficient for the new regulations to bed down, and they have now offered just one year. Local planning must involve extensive consultation with the people it effects, which inevitably takes time to achieve. Unfortunately Cambridge’s new Local Plan will not be ready in time.”

“By moving the goal-posts so directly in favour of development, local communities and CambridgePPF will need to be ever more vigilant in ensuring that future plans do serve the wider needs of the people. Obviously we need growth but not at any cost to the character, social fabric and natural environment of Cambridge and its immediate surrounding. Only time will tell if the NPPF will be clear and robust enough to protect our natural environment and open spaces and if it will balance development with enhanced sustainability, quality of the built and historic environment and biodiversity. We all need to make sure the Cambridge’s new Local Plan – currently in discussion – will ensure a quality environment we all can enjoy in the future.”


References:


CambridgePPF –  past comments on Consultation Draft of NPPF and CambridgePPF's petition 

Dr Robin Pellew submitting CambridgePPF's petition  to Government in October 2011

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