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Planning matters

New houses in Chinnor New houses in Chinnor Photo: © Becky Crocket

Planning should be a balance between economic, social and environmental considerations. It is a crucial tool in protecting our countryside, while encouraging the right development in the right places for the right reasons.

Recent changes in planning policy

The changes to planning announced early in 2012 in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) have been supplimented by another set of proposals announced by the Government in September 2012. The Government appears to be influenced by those who claim that the planning system is holding back development. This is false. It is quite obvious that the main obstacles to growth and development are a chronic shortage of cash and mortgages.

The Government is proposing to relax planning rules so that, for example, householders can build bigger conservatories without planning permission. This futile gesture will not significantly increase development in the countryside, but could set neighbour against neighbour. The newly appointed Planning Minister, Nick Boles, is on record as saying that ‘urban chaos’ may be a better alternative to the planning system. We strongly disagree, Nick.

National planning policy framework

The Government published its draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in summer 2011 and was greeted with uproar. The document sought to replace existing planning policy guidelines with a single 50-page framework. It combined a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ with a seemingly one-sided focus on economic objectives. It set off one of CPRE’s strongest campaigns in years.

The final document now includes a definition of sustainable development, has a renewed emphasis on using brownfield sites and recognises the intrinsic value of the countryside in its own right. But there is still a worrying focus on short-term economic objectives rather than long-term thinking. And the wording is still vague and imprecise enough to leave no one but lawyers entirely happy. Read more about the NPPF including 10 things you need to know.

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