Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Have your say on the "National Planning Policy Framework"

My article in today’s Cornish Guardian is as follows:

The UK Government is presently consulting on a revised version of the National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out its principal policies on planning. The consultation ends on 10th May.

The new version still contains something called a “presumption in favour of sustainable development,” which has been consistently criticised by numerous communities and a wide range of interest groups who feel that it has often led to “unchecked and damaging development.”

I share this view and note that the document still states the “presumption” should be “sufficiently flexible to adapt to rapid change.” But surely, rapid change is, more often than not, inherently unsustainable?

The revised NPPF also includes a new and top-down “standard method” to set out (higher) housing targets for council areas, and a Cornwall Council briefing has made it clear that “the scope for local influence over the target is very small to nil.”

I remain extremely frustrated at how Cornwall’s housing stock has been growing at a faster rate than almost all other parts of the United Kingdom and yet Whitehall continues to dictate that the rate of development should be ratcheted up still further.

For me, one of the key priorities is the provision of genuinely affordable local needs housing. But this has been undermined by the NPPF and there are no improvements in the revised version.

Definitions of affordable housing in the new draft NPPF do not include “social rents,” which have traditionally been charged for council houses and housing association properties. Instead, “affordable” rents or sales are defined as needing a 20% discount off market prices, which still leaves the homes ridiculously expensive. The document further includes a ridiculous definition of “starter home,” which is being promoted for families with a “household income” of up to “£80,000 a year.”

In addition, the NPPF states that affordable housing “should not be sought” on development sites of less than ten units, except in “designated rural areas.” I continue to be extremely frustrated at how the definition of “rural” is a total mess, and this has not been addressed by central government. It is a nonsense that in my local area of Clay Country, four of the five parishes are deemed “urban” while one has been defined as rural.

There are many further areas of concern. For example, local wildlife trusts are campaigning against the proposal to reduce protections for “local wildlife sites” which cover vast tracts across the country.

On behalf of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall, I will be sending a detailed submission to central government, and it is my hope that many other individuals and organisations will also be making representations.

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