The National Trust has expressed its concern over confused messages from Government over its controversial planning changes.
Saturday saw planning Minister Greg Clark offer talks on the changes. But today saw a re-doubled effort by Chancellor George Osborne and Communities Minister Eric Pickles to push through the changes in the interests of profit above all else. (Financial Times, 5 September 2011)
The charity has warned that cosmetic tweaks will do little to assuage the concerns of the thousands of people signing the charity’s petition. A more fundamental re-think is required before the NPPF can come into force.
So far Government Ministers have described concerns put forward by the National Trust, members of the public and other organisations in the planning sector as “risible”, “nihilistic” and “semi-hysterical.”
The message from Planning Minister Greg Clark that he is now prepared to engage in serious talks about the concerns marks a positive step forward.
Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust, said: “At last the Government has indicated that they are prepared to talk seriously about the major concerns over changes to the planning system.
“We’re happy to do so, but it’s not a case of a simple re-write of a few words here or there – the general tone of the planning framework is fundamentally wrong.
“The Government needs to be open to a new approach which genuinely delivers benefits for communities and the environment, as well as business.”
The draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) changes the purpose of the planning system away from guiding good development to the place it’s needed to become a tool to promote short-term financial profit instead.
Osborne and Pickles argue that changes to the planning system are needed to promote house building, but according to the latest figures the percentage of applications approved by local authorities stands at 80 per cent, a 10-year high.
Developers are submitting fewer applications not because of the planning system, but because of the economic downturn and a lack of available credit for home-buyers.
In the UK since the mid 20th century – and in other nations, such as Germany – it’s also clear that that it is possible to have a thriving economy and a strong planning system.
Fiona Reynolds added: “Let’s be clear that we support good development and have built hundreds of homes on our land.
“We fully-support a simplified system and are not opposed to good development, but we need to get it right or the consequences could be disastrous.
“We do not need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are plenty of places where liberal planning systems have not led to economic success, such as Greece and Ireland.
“Over the last 60 years the planning system has helped guide good development to the right places.
“A bad reform of the system will lead to bad development. The concerns that we have voiced are shared by tens of thousands of people throughout the country.
“Until the Minister, Communities Secretary and Chancellor can guarantee that they will consider a new approach, we will continue to campaign hard on this important issue.”