Much-needed nuance in the NPPF debate

We’ve starting the week with a helping of healthy debate on the government’s draft planning reforms (NPPF). This time, it comes in the form of a Redbrick blog post by Steve Hilditch, the self-proclaimed “place for progressive housing policy debate”.

In ‘Octavia Hill cries wolf? Steve gives his take on Ben Cowell‘s blog (our Assistant Director of External Affairs) in response to a searing critique of our Planning for People campaign by Inside Housing blogger Colin Wiles.

So here’s Ben’s thinking on Steve Hilditch’s blog:

“This is a really important debate, and we welcome it. There is a great deal in what you say that we in fact agree with. In particular, we agree with the broad argument that the #NPPF and Localism Act contains contradictory impulses that could cancel each other out.

As you put it:

“At its heart there is a core contradiction, trying to combine a national policy – generally in favour of development – with a localist approach – which at best will be highly variable as local councils and communities respond to developers’ proposals.” 

“It ought to be possible to combine promotion of growth with promotion of localism, but so far the new planning policy reads too much like a licence to reintroduce the sort of ‘planning by appeal’ that characterised earlier eras. So we agree that more should be done to strengthen the ‘duty to cooperate’ and to promote wider-than-local planning.

“We also agree with you on the need for a brownfield first approach. Where I take issue is where you claim that the National Trust claims ‘to speak on behalf of its millions of members’. Could you point me to an example of where we have done that? We have been very careful not to claim to speak on behalf of our 4 million members. We in fact set up a separate petition for people to sign if they agreed with our campaign (over 220,000 did so).

We are a completely apolitical charity (the Charity Commission would have something to say if we were not so), and our membership reflects a broad span of views and opinions that we would never try to second guess. We share many of the same concerns as the CPRE, but the main difference between the two organisations is that we own a significant amount of land, and therefore have a huge role to play in local economies (particularly in rural areas).

We are directly engaged in rural economic issues (see our blog about rural growth), and do so in ways that demonstrate how we can combine economic prosperity at the same time as enhancing and protecting special places for ever and for everyone. We look forward to the debate continuing and – more importantly – to a new planning system that is fit for purpose, that helps deliver the jobs and houses that are now needed, but does so in the right way and in the right places.

Ben Cowell, Assistant Director, External Affairs, National Trust

Want to add your voice to the debate? Tweet us @nationaltrust with the #planning4ppl hashtag or find us on Facebook.

Blog by Kate Joynes-Burgess, Social Media & Communities Manager

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