Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

My latest column in the Cornish Guardian focuses on the publication of the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). It is as follows:

The Coalition Government has launched a draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). It is a mere 52 pages long and will replace more than 1,300 pages of planning rules and regulations. Senior politicians such as Eric Pickles MP and Greg Clark MP are claiming that the planning system is too complex and forbidding – the preserve of specialists – and that they are making it simpler for “people in communities” to understand and use.

They are making grand statements about the new Framework and how it will free local communities from central government intervention. But the reality does not match the spin.

The document contains a “presumption in favour of development.” It states that “decision-takers at every level should assume that the default answer to development proposals is yes” and that councils should grant consent where local planning documents are silent, indeterminate or dated.

The document also promotes the concept of “Neighbourhood Plans” which they claim will give “communities direct power to plan the areas in which they live.” But it also states that these plans must be aligned with national and key council documents, taking away any significant local discretion on strategic issues.

The National Trust has condemned the new planning rules, stating that it could mean “unchecked and damaging development … on a scale not seen since the 1930s.” It has also called on central government “to ensure that the economic, environmental and social benefits of development go hand in hand” and damaging developments are not pushed through on narrow economic grounds.

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England has meanwhile claimed the reforms “will place the countryside under increasing threat and leave local communities and planning authorities largely powerless in the face of developer pressure.”

One local MP has also denounced the proposals of his own Government, claiming that they put “greed” before “need” and “would turn places like Cornwall into a ‘developer’s paradise’ and stop stone dead any chance of us ever meeting our desperate local housing need.”

All these concerns are valid. And it is my hope that individuals and groups will challenge the Government to rethink much of the Framework through its consultation which will last until 17th October.

It is certainly disappointing to see that the Framework bears little relation to the campaign speeches made by local Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs in their election campaigns only last year.

1 comment:

Bob Hayes said...

It seems to me that every claim from central government to be devolving power only means that it is devolving responsibility for doing their dirty work to local councillors. Already we hear councillors saying that their hands are tied and that they have no planning grounds on which to object to schemes that local people oppose. It sounds to me that these changes will reduce planning committees to nothing more than a rubber stamp. I know you will fight the good fight Dick, but wonder if the time will come when the only way is to stop playing their game.