As more voices are raised against the contents of the NPPF, the capability of local authorities to deal with the requirements of the planning reforms have also been questioned. Slashes to council budgets have left planning departments severely understaffed, and if the reforms do go through, these will be unable to deal with a boom in applications.
Today the plight faced by planning departments countrywide was highlighted. Freedom of Information requests by the Trust have revealed that over 75% of councils have reduced numbers of planning practitioners. The concern of the National Trust is that these depleted departments will be caught off guard by the effects of the NPPF. According to Dame Fiona Reynolds “The Government’s planning changes could lead to an unprecedented boom in applications if they go through, as developers exploit the gaping hole left by the lack of local plans or core strategies. It’s therefore a real concern that planning resource within local authorities will see such major cuts throughout the country.”
A new voice was added to the fight against the Government’s draft of the NPPF today. The Sports and Recreation Alliance have spoken out against a clause of the NPPF which states “Existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land, including playing fields, should not be built on unless: the need for and benefits of the development clearly outweigh the loss.” The ‘loss’ would be hard to prove in economic terms meaning that open space, sport and recreation facilities will be more vulnerable to developments that are not wanted, and not necessary. This is yet another case of where under the framework economic interests would be capable of bulldozing environmental and social concerns of local people.
The RAC and Campaign for Better Transport have said today that moving towards a sustainable future would become difficult if the NPPF was not modified. They called for the Coalition to rewrite its proposed planning reforms so new houses and flats are constructed near railway stations or bus routes, or in places where public transport can rapidly be laid on so as to avoid increasing reliance on cars and potential ‘transport chaos’.